President Joe Biden announced the U.S. will freeze Russian financial assets, seize assets from high-ranking officials and block technology exports in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Announcing the sanctions in a public address Thursday, Biden joined numerous countries worldwide in penalizing Russia hours after the country began firing cruise missiles and sending troops into Ukraine.
The sanctions announced Thursday include technology export controls to limit Russia's ability to work on its aerospace, ship-building and other industries; freezing assets belonging to Russia's largest banks and freezing assets belonging to "Russian elites" and their family members. Biden said Thursday's sanctions could cut off more than half of Russia's "high-tech" imports.
The U.S. will freeze assets at Russia's largest banks kept in the U.S., including VTB Bank, a state-owned entity and Russia's second-largest bank, as well as Sberbank. Similarly, the U.K. announced earlier on Thursday it would freeze any British-based assets belonging to VTB. The European Union is similarly freezing Russian assets and blocking bank access to European financial markets.
A U.S. Treasury Department press release said Thursday's actions would "fundamentally alter" these banks' ability to conduct operations.
"On a daily basis, Russian financial institutions conduct about $46 billion worth of foreign exchange transactions globally, 80% of which are in U.S. dollars. The vast majority of those transactions will now be disrupted," the release said.
State-owned entities will also be blocked from debt markets in the U.S.
Biden added the U.S., EU and other nations will coordinate to try to limit Russia's ability to transact with euros, dollars, pounds or yen. Biden met with leaders of the G7 earlier in the day.
The U.S. is also sanctioning Belarusian defense and financial entities due to their role in supporting Russia's invasion, according to a separate Treasury Dept. press release.
The U.S. will not attempt to expel Russia from the SWIFT global messaging network at this time. The Belgium-based organization underpins financial transactions between banks in different countries, processing close to $77 trillion in payments in 2019.
In response to a reporter's question, Biden said the sanctions announced Thursday might have more of an impact than kicking Russia out of SWIFT.
"The sanctions that we proposed on all their banks have equal consequence, maybe more consequence than SWIFT," he said. "It's always an option but it's not the position the rest of Europe wants to take."
The U.S. president slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin in his remarks.
"This was never about security concerns on their part," he said. "This was about naked aggression."
UPDATE (Feb. 24, 2022, 19:50 UTC): Adds additional information.
UPDATE (Feb. 24, 2022, 20:50 UTC): Adds additional information about EU sanctions.
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