By Michael Ginsberg
As part of its sanctions package, the U.S. Treasury is banning Americans from doing business with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation and two other Russian government entities.
Americans will also be banned from conducting transactions with the the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. The U.S. government has also sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin directly, as well as several of his cabinet ministers. S&P Global Ratings lowered Russia’s bond rating to “junk” Saturday under the weight of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European allies, and the Russian ruble dropped 26% against the U.S. dollar between Friday and Monday.
“The unprecedented action we are taking today will significantly limit Russia’s ability to use assets to finance its destabilizing activities, and target the funds Putin and his inner circle depend on to enable his invasion of Ukraine,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “Today, in coordination with partners and allies, we are following through on key commitments to restrict Russia’s access to these valuable resources.”
In partnership with our allies, Treasury has prohibited transactions with the Central Bank of Russia by U.S. persons, and imposed sanctions on key sources of Russia’s wealth.https://t.co/ljwXaLkXJc
— Treasury Department (@USTreasury) February 28, 2022
Following his 2014 invasion of Crimea, Putin stockpiled $630 billion in foreign cash with the goal of weathering an international sanctions regime. However, these sanctions will prevent Russia from selling that money to support its currency, according to the White House. The United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) will also sanction the Russian central bank. (RELATED: Biden Announces ‘First Tranche’ Of Sanctions Against Russia, Says The Invasion Has Begun)
The U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Canada and the European Commission announced Saturday that several Russian banks would be removed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) operating system, which allows banks around the world to conduct transactions with each other. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle have urged the Biden administration to push for a complete ban of Russian banks from SWIFT.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has aggressively advocated for the SWIFT sanctions, although some EU countries, notably Germany and Italy, pushed back. Biden had previously expressed pessimism about a SWIFT ban, saying on Feb. 24 that it wasn’t “the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a group of EU leaders Thursday night, leading them to adopt a more aggressive sanctions stance, The Washington Post reported.
“This might be the last time you see me alive,” he reportedly said.