US, EU announce new wave of sanctions against Russia; DOJ ramps up prosecutions, seizures

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


On Wednesday, the Western world again announced a series of sanctions meant to cripple the Russian economy and force Russian President Vladimir Putin to desist his brutal war campaign in Ukraine.

This round of sanctions, which President Joe Biden told a crowd gathered at a Washington hotel would “wipe out the last 15 years of Russia’s economic gains,” targets top Russian financial institutions as well as Putin’s adult daughters and Russian political figures.

“Responsible nations have to come together to hold these perpetrators accountable,” Biden said. “And together with our Allies and our partners, we’re going to keep raising the economic cost and ratchet up the pain for Putin and further increase Russia’s economic isolation.”

According to a fact sheet released by the White House, the new sanctions will cut off Russia’s Sberbank and Alfa Bank, Russia’s largest financial institution and private bank, respectively, from Europe and the U.S.

Additionally, U.S. citizens will not be allowed to invest in the Russian Federation, and U.S. authorities have frozen the assets of various Russian state-owned entities.

Most notable, though arguably of the least economic significance, was the announcement that Putin’s grown daughters, as well as the wife and daughter of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and members of Russia’s Security Council, had been cut off from the U.S. financial system and had their American assets frozen.

“These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people,” the fact sheet reads. “Some of them are responsible for providing the support necessary to underpin Putin’s war on Ukraine. This action cuts them off from the U.S. financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States.”

Wednesday proved a busy day for the Biden administration in its efforts to make life miserable for Russian powerbrokers.

The Justice Department also announced it had charged Konstantin Malofeyev, a Russian businessman who the European Commission says has worked for years to destabilize the Donbas region of Ukraine, with violating U.S. sanctions dating to 2014.

Malofeyev is accused of engaging in business with a U.S. citizen and attempting to transfer a $10 million investment he made in a U.S. bank to Greece, both of which would have been in violation of Obama-era sanctions.  

“The Justice Department will work relentlessly to counter Russian aggression, including by enforcing U.S. sanctions law,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.

Wednesday’s announcement was largely ceremonial – Malofeyev is not in custody and is almost certainly in the safety of Russia – but the charges signal another incremental escalation.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the attempt to prosecute Malofeyev and the month-old Operation KleptoCapture, which yielded the seizure of a $90 million dollar yacht over the weekend, were but singular parts of a larger multinational effort to squash Russian criminal activity in the U.S. and Europe.

“This Department has a long history of helping to hold accountable those who perpetrate war crimes,” Garland said during a speech about his office’s efforts to combat Russian crime. “One of my predecessors — Attorney General Robert Jackson — later served as the chief American prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials.”

“Today, we are assisting international efforts to identify and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities in Ukraine. And we will continue to do so.”

Beyond yacht seizures and charging Malofeyev, the Justice Department announced it had turned away a cyberattack from GRU, the name given to a robot network controlled by a Russian military intelligence agency and used to infect computers with malware.

“Fortunately, we were able to disrupt this botnet before it could be used,” Garland said. “Thanks to our close work with international partners, we were able to detect the infection of thousands of network hardware devices.”

The West also logged a massive cyber win Tuesday, when the Justice Department and German authorities partnered to bring down the Russia-affiliated Hydra darknet market, the world’s largest illegal marketplace on the dark web.