US unveils sweeping new sanctions on Russia

Measures against Moscow and aid for Kyiv announced on anniversary of invasion of Ukraine

US President Joe Biden walks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at St Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery on a surprise visit to Kyiv. AP
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The US on Friday unveiled a sweeping new sanctions package against Russia's economy aimed at hampering its ability to wage war against Ukraine, exactly one year since Moscow's invasion.

The sanctions will be accompanied by an additional $2 billion in military aid for Ukraine, including drones and ammunition.

These new actions will provide “Ukraine with the support it needs and [will hold] Russia accountable for its war of aggression”, the White House said.

Under the new sanctions, about 200 people and companies across Russia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East will be punished for supporting Russia's war effort.

The US Treasury Department said that includes companies building or importing high-tech equipment used by Russian military entities.

Since launching its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been able to sidestep some of the effects of global sanctions by selling its oil and energy at bargain prices to other countries, including India.

While this has been enough for President Vladimir Putin to keep funding his war, ordinary Russians have largely been frozen out of the global financial system and western sanctions have sought to punish thousands of companies, government officials, oligarchs and their families.

Among those named on Friday is Swiss-Italian businessman Walter Moretti, whom Washington claims has — along with a “network of associates and companies” — has “covertly procured sensitive western technologies and equipment for Russian intelligence”.

One year of the Russia-Ukraine war — in pictures

The Treasury said Friday's designations included one of “the most significant sanctions actions to date”, announcing a new determination against Russia's metals and mining sector.

One of Russia's 10 largest banks, Credit Bank of Moscow Public Joint Stock Company, was also among those designated by Washington.

“Today’s action … further isolates Russia from the international economy and hinders Russia’s ability to obtain the capital, materials, technology, and support that sustain its war against Ukraine, which has killed thousands and displaced millions of people,” Treasury said in a statement.

The announcement came before an online meeting between President Joe Biden, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the G7.

“Russia’s heinous attacks over the last 365 days have laid bare the cruelty of the ongoing aggression,” the G7 said in a joint statement afterwards.

The international political forum also reiterated that it is committed to holding Mr Putin accountable for the war, which has already led to more than 25,000 instances of alleged war crimes by Russian soldiers, according to USAID.

“We support exploring efforts to develop an international centre for the prosecution of the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” the G7 statement added.

The Pentagon's new aid package includes stockpiles of ammunition for 155mm artillery systems and Himars that “have proved so effective on the battlefield”, as well as mine clearing equipment and secure communications support equipment.

“One year on, the commitment of the United States, together with some 50 countries who have rallied to rush urgently needed assistance to Ukraine, has only strengthened,” the Department of Defence said.

The latest package also includes several new drone systems aimed at strengthening Ukraine’s air defences, as well as electronic warfare detection equipment.

Washington's support for Kyiv has far outweighed the rest of the world's response, with the US having committed $78 billion in humanitarian, financial and military assistance to Ukraine since January of last year, data from the Kiel Institute's Ukraine Support Tracker shows.

The US will “continue to work with its allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its immediate battlefield needs and longer-term security assistance requirements for as long as it takes”, the Pentagon said.

The anniversary comes after Mr Biden made a historic visit to Europe's eastern flank, including a surprise stop in Kyiv and a rousing speech in the Polish capital Warsaw, where he declared “Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia” and touted Nato strength a year into the war.

“Biden’s speech aimed to rally the West and the international community so that they continue to support Ukraine as this war drags into a second year,” Stacie Pettyjohn, Director of the Defence Programme at the Washington-based Centre for a New American Security told The National.

“I’m confident that the US will continue to provide as much support as they can for Ukraine.”

In a meeting at Washington's Ukraine House, which is affiliated with the Ukrainian embassy, USAID administrator Samantha Power announced $250 million in additional aid aimed at strengthening Ukraine's energy sector.

Alongside Ukrainian ambassador Oksana Markarova, Ms Power said that reviving the energy sector was “mission critical”.

Mr Putin has faced accusations of using winter as a weapon of war and attacking Ukraine's energy infrastructure during the coldest months.

Ms Markarova delivered a message of gratitude to Washington for its ongoing support.

“This day is a difficult day,” she said, but expressed strength and confidence in her country by saying that “we will win this war”.

In addition, USAID announced it has begun formally disbursing $9.9 billion in direct budget support for the Ukrainian government, part of a larger support package passed by Congress in March.

Ms Markarova also addressed doubts from some Republican members of Congress about the degree to which Washington has financially supported Kyiv.

“Supporting Ukraine is the right thing to do … it is existential for everyone who believes in international world order,” she said.

Support shown around the world for Ukraine — in pictures

Updated: February 24, 2023, 6:23 PM