WASHINGTON (CN) — The White House announced new sanctions Thursday targeting seven more Russian oligarchs, their family members and Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, in the latest round of penalties aimed at punishing the rich and powerful in Russia and pressuring Putin to end the war in Ukraine.
The move will freeze the assets of elite businessmen with close ties to Putin who have derived their massive wealth from their ties to the Kremlin and place visa restrictions on a set of 19 oligarchs and 47 of their family members and associates.
Some of the most prominent figures targeted by the penalties are Alisher Burhanovich Usmanov, one of Russia's wealthiest people, and Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary and a key figure in the dissemination of Kremlin propaganda.
Sanctions levied on Usmanov block his property from use in the U.S., including his super yacht which was recently seized by Germany, and his private jet— touted as one of Russia's largest privately owned aircrafts.
Nikolay Tokarev, head of energy company Transneft, and his real estate companies were also targeted by the new sanctions.
During his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden issued a warning to those closest to Putin, vowing that the U.S. and its allies would "seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets."
"We are coming for your ill-begotten gains," Biden said.
The White House has issued several previous rounds of sanctions targeting Putin, members of his inner circle and Russia's largest banks after Russia invaded Ukraine last week.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice launched a task force to enforce sanctions against Russia's elite and locate their assets.
The aptly named "KleptoCapture" team based out of the Office of the Deputy Attorney General will investigate violations of sanctions and target efforts to use cryptocurrency to skirt international penalties.
“The Justice Department will use all of its authorities to seize the assets of individuals and entities who violate these sanctions,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. “We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war. Let me be clear: if you violate our laws, we will hold you accountable.”
All this comes as the first and only criminal indictment related to violations of 2014 U.S. sanctions against Russian oligarchs was unsealed in the Southern District of New York Thursday, laying bare the consequences of coming into conflict with international penalties.
John Hanick, a 71-year-old U.S. citizen, is being charged with making false statements and violating U.S. sanctions that were put in place after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and began attacks on the Donbas region of Ukraine — a conflict that climaxed with Russia's full-scale invasion last week.
According to the Justice Department, Hanick worked as a propaganda television producer from 2013 through 2017 for Russian Oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who had been targeted by sanctions over his financial support for the Donestk separatist region.
In addition to targeting Malofeyev's finances, those sanctions also banned any U.S. citizens from working for Malofeyev, a rule Hanick allegedly broke.
“Sanctions imposed by the U.S. government are in place to protect our national interests, as well as the interests of our allies around the world,” Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office said in a statement. "The action we have taken today should serve as an example to all that we will use all the resources at our disposal to aggressively enforce our nation's sanctions.”
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