The United States, Britain, Canada and the European Union all announced sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as part of a coordinated bid to punish Moscow for its military invasion of Ukraine.
“These men bear the greatest responsibility for the death and destruction occurring in Ukraine,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa on Friday.
This is the first time Putin and Lavrov have been targeted personally with sanctions, but recent measures, including some that were announced this week, have also sought to isolate Putin’s inner circle and high-profile members of Russia’s elite.
Here are some of the most prominent Russians whom Western nations have placed on sanctions lists so far.
Putin has been in office in Russia — either as president or prime minister — for more than two decades. He recently moved to consolidate his power even further, cracking down on domestic opponents and engineering a vote that will keep him in office until 2036.
At 69, the Russian leader and former intelligence officer is steeped in Soviet-era geopolitics and imbued with what he sees as his mission to transform Russia. On the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin invoked centuries-old battles depicting the Ukrainian nation as one that was held hostage by Western powers and in need of liberation.
The sanctions announced Friday aim to punish Putin for his assault on Ukraine, a move seen by Western powers as a direct challenge to the post-Cold War global order.
The use of sanctions against world leaders is rare. The only other two leaders that the E.U. has targeted, for example, are Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
It is unclear, however, how much the new measures will affect the Russian leader, because he may not control property in his name in Europe or elsewhere. Neither Britain nor the E.U. imposed a travel ban on Putin, which could complicate diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.
E.U. policymakers said they would seize any property that he may control indirectly. But “a whole lot of work needs to be done” to track down Putin’s assets, said Josep Borrell, the E.U.’s foreign policy chief.
The United States has not yet released details of the sanctions it is imposing on Putin, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday she thought a travel ban would be included.
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war and now he and his country will bear the consequences,” President Biden said in a speech on Thursday.
Lavrov is a veteran diplomat who has served as Russia’s foreign minister since 2004. He previously represented Russia at the United Nations and began his career at the Soviet Embassy in Sri Lanka in the 1970s.
He has been described as a “sometimes inscrutable enforcer” of Russia’s foreign policy and reportedly earned the nickname “Mr. Nyet” (Mr. No) because of his trademark scowl and defense of the Kremlin’s policies on Syria, Ukraine and other global crises.
According to Agence France-Presse, Lavrov is “a longtime smoker … enjoys Scotch whisky and is not immune to wry irony.”
Lavrov spent weeks telling Western officials that Moscow had no plans to invade Ukraine. On Friday, he said Putin ordered the operation to “free Ukrainians from oppression.”
Now, Lavrov’s assets will be frozen in the United States, Britain and the E.U. British companies will be “barred from providing goods, services, or assets” to Lavrov and Putin in the future, the government said.
The U.S. Treasury Department, in its statement on the new sanctions Friday, said Lavrov had “advanced the false narrative that Ukraine is the aggressor and has aggressively sought to justify Russia’s actions globally.”
Sergei Shoigu is Russia’s defense minister and his official biography lists him as “Army General, Hero of the Russian Federation.” He has served as defense minister since 2012 after a stint as governor of Moscow.
Shoigu has now been targeted for sanctions by the United States, Canada and the E.U.
In the E.U.’s official sanctions note, it described the defense minister as “ultimately responsible for any military action against Ukraine.” In the months before the invasion, Shoigu accused the United States and NATO of “purposefully increasing the scale and intensity” of military training activities near Russia and bolstering the military development of Ukraine.
In 2016, the Siberian Times published what it said were “rare pictures” of Shoigu relaxing and painting a watercolor landscape. The outlet said Shoigu is a “renowned collector of Chinese and Japanese samurai swords” and a known expert on Russia during the time of Peter the Great. He also speaks nine languages fluently, the outlet said.
Maria Zakharova is a veteran Russian communications officer who worked as a press secretary for Russia’s mission to the United Nations before landing at the Foreign Ministry in 2008. She has served as the director of the ministry’s Information and Press Department since 2015, giving press briefings on the state of Russian foreign affairs.
The E.U. list calls her “a central figure of the government propaganda” and noted that she “promoted the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.”
In a Feb. 16 briefing, Zakharova repeatedly criticized what she called Western “disinformation media” about Russian aggression and the prospect of war in Ukraine.
Simonyan is the editor in chief of RT, an English-language television news network formerly known as Russia Today. She also heads the news outlet Rossiya Segodnya, a Kremlin-backed news agency that operates Sputnik and RIA Novosti. The State Department last month called RT and Sputnik “critical elements in Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem.”
The E.U., which this week placed her on a sanctions list, said that “through her function, she promoted a positive attitude to the annexation of Crimea and the action of separatists in Donbas.”
The state-funded media outlet has also been linked to disinformation campaigns and Russian propaganda.
Valery Gerasimov, 66, is chief of the general staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and one of several top Russian officials placed on the U.S. sanctions list Friday. Britain also added him to its list.
Following a speech he gave in 2013, Gerasimov became associated with hybrid warfare, a whole-of-government strategy that blurs boundaries between war and peace. The idea, however, of a “Gerasimov doctrine” has since been debunked.
Ukraine’s security service placed him on its wanted list in 2015, alleging that Gerasimov had “organized training and triggered the conflict” in eastern Ukraine the previous year, the Kyiv Post reported.
He is also known for his role in the second Chechen war and was later in charge of traditional Victory Day military parades in Moscow.
Shoigu, the defense minister, once described Gerasimov as “a military man to the roots of his hair,” according to a 2012 profile by the BBC.
The British government’s sanctions list says the general was “responsible for the massive deployment of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine and lack of de-escalation of the situation.”
Robyn Dixon in Moscow and Paul Sonne in Washington contributed to this report.
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