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U.S., Allies To Impose Harsh New Sanctions In Effort To Deplete Putin's 'War Chest'

By RFE/RL April 05, 2022

The United States and its European allies will impose harsh new sanctions on Russia on April 6 in a move aimed at increasing Russia's economic and technological isolation as a penalty for its attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

The joint action will include new sanctions on financial institutions, a ban on new investment in Russia, toughened sanctions on government-owned enterprises, and more sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members.

"The goal is to force them to make a choice," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "The biggest part of our objective here is to deplete the resources that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has to continue his war against Ukraine."

The U.S. Treasury Department already took steps on April 5 to make it harder for Russia to meet its financial obligations by blocking any Russian government debt payments with U.S. dollars from accounts at U.S. financial institutions.

Britain announced it has frozen some $350 billion in assets from Putin's "war chest" so far. Foreign Minister Liz Truss said that this makes more than 60 percent of Russia's $604 billion in currency reserves unavailable.

The EU said a fifth package of measures that it announced targets oil and coal exports and bar Russian ships from European ports.

The actions come as accusations of atrocities committed by Russian troops continue to pile up. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the UN Security Council on April 5 that Russian troops had committed some of the worst war crimes since World War II and urged the council to hold them accountable.

Much of the focus has been on Bucha, a town near Kyiv where Russian forces were positioned until their withdrawal late last week. People there said they witnessed brutal killings and torture, and evidence has emerged of mass graves and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia said that while Bucha was under Russian control "not a single local person has suffered from any violent action." Reiterating the Kremlin's previous statements, he said videos showing bodies in the streets were "a crude forgery" staged by the Ukrainians.

"You only saw what they showed you," he said. "The only ones who would fall for this are Western dilettantes."

Zelenskiy said the events in Bucha will make "even the possibility" of peace talks with Russia a challenge.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of fueling "hysteria" over alleged Russian war crimes as a way to derail negotiations. Several rounds of talks so far have yielded no deal.

Lavrov said that Moscow won't accept a Ukrainian demand that any prospective peace deal include an immediate pullout of troops followed by a Ukrainian referendum on the agreement.

In televised remarks he said a new deal would have to be negotiated if the vote failed, and "we don't want to play such cat and mouse."

Western military officials say Russian forces that have pulled back from the area around Kyiv are now regrouping for deployment eastern and southern Ukraine. Fresh battles are expected in the region commonly known as the Donbas, where Russia-backed separatists already hold territory.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance expects a Russian push in "coming weeks" to try to take all the Donbas with the goal of creating a land bridge to occupied Crimea.

The region includes the shattered port city of Mariupol, where authorities continue strained efforts to evacuate civilians.

More than 3,800 people were able to leave on April 5 along agreed humanitarian corridors, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.

But a convoy of seven buses that had set out to evacuate people from Mariupol had not managed to make its way through a Russian blockade, Vereshchuk said.

Russia's defense ministry said Ukrainian forces had "cynically disrupted" the evacuation effort, TASS cited a senior official as saying.

The buses however were able to evacuate people from the city of Berdyansk, including some people from Mariupol who had made it that far.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that as of April 4 Russia's war has killed 1,480 civilians and wounded another 2,195.

"Most of the civilian casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide range of damage, including heavy artillery and rocket-propelled grenade launches, as well as missiles and air strikes," the statement said.

The UN believes that the real numbers of dead and wounded are much higher as information from some places where hostilities are taking place is delayed, and many reports need to be confirmed.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia- sanctions-us-eu-war/31787542.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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