Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) attends a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden of the Moscow’s Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/EPA-EFE/SPUTNIK
Feb. 25 (UPI) — The United States and Canada joined the European Union in imposing direct sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.
“In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said during a briefing on Friday.
Psaki added that the United States will “continue to consider a range of options to provide additional assistance” while continuing to deliver on a security assistance package that was announced last year.
During the press briefing, Psaki was asked whether the United States had a warning for Russia if the country were to physically harm or otherwise replace Volodymyr Zelensky as president of Ukraine.
“There are attempts to do exactly that and their continued progress in moving toward Kyiv and moving toward Ukrainian leadership is aligned with what we have predicted,” Psaki said.
“Obviously, going after a head of state is a significant, horrific act by Russian leadership. But we remain in contact with President Zelensky, and he has made clear that he is still in Ukraine, proudly and courageously standing up in the face of the Russian attack.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a press conference broadcast by the country’s Cable Public Affairs Channel, a public-access network, that its sanctions would include Putin, Lavrov and Sergei Ivanov, Putin’s chief of staff.
Trudeau also expressed support for excluding Russian banks from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication network, a high-security payment system that connects world banks. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also lobbied for excluding Russia from SWIFT payments.
“We have made it clear that all options are on the table when it comes to imposing steep costs on Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion,” Trudeau said.”Excluding Russian banks from SWIFT would make it even more difficult for President Putin to finance his brutalities.”
The direct sanctions against Putin and Lavrov came after the European Union, Australia, Taiwan and Japan also leveled sanctions Friday against Russia.
The United States, Canada and Britain a day earlier issued sanctions on Moscow’s economy in an effort to punish Putin for what they say is an illegal attack against the sovereignty of its neighbor.
“We are now targeting 70% of the Russian banking market, but also key state-owned companies, including the field of defense,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, told reporters during a press conference.
“These sanctions will increase Russia’s borrowing costs, raise inflation and gradually erode Russia’s industrial base. We are also targeting the Russian elite by curbing their deposits so that they cannot hide their money anymore in safe havens in Europe.”