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PTI

In a rare move, the US has slapped sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, holding them "directly responsible" for Moscow's "unprovoked and unlawful" invasion of Ukraine.

The latest US sanctions build on other sweeping actions that America and partners took earlier this week targeting the core infrastructure of the Russian financial system, including sanctions against Moscow's largest financial institutions, the US Department of the Treasury said in a statement.

The US, in coordination with allies and partners, continued to forcefully respond to Russia's "unjustified, unprovoked and premeditated" invasion of Ukraine by imposing sanctions on Putin and Lavrov, as well as other members of Russia's Security Council, according to the statement issued on Friday.

Putin and Lavrov are "directly responsible for Russia's unprovoked and unlawful further invasion of Ukraine, a democratic sovereign state", it said.

The sanctions will go directly after their assets.

It is exceedingly rare for the Treasury to designate a head of state. "President Putin joins a very small group that includes despots such as (North Korea's) Kim Jong Un, (Belarus President) Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad," the statement said.

In addition, the US also slapped sanctions against Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, and Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, First Deputy Minister of Defence, and General of the Army Valery Gerasimov. The Treasury has previously designated 11 members of the Russian Security Council.

President Joe Biden has built a global coalition to stand up in the face of Putin and his "aggression and invasion of Ukraine , White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.

What he has done is he has rallied the world, our European partners, even at cost to them in some capacities, to put in place significant sanctions, historic sanctions that would have an enormous impact on the Russian financial sector. It is President Putin's choice to go to war and invade Ukraine. That is what he has done, she said.

It is our choice and our responsibility, and the role of the president of the United States to rally opposition and make sure they feel significant pain from that choice. That's exactly what we have done, Psaki said.

"Cumulatively, these actions impose unprecedented diplomatic and economic costs on Russia and further isolate it from the global financial system and international community," the treasury department statement said.

Treasury Secretary Janet L Yellen said Putin rejected every good faith effort the US and its allies and partners made to address "our mutual security concerns through dialogue to avoid needless conflict and avert human suffering".

The US is prepared to impose further costs on Russia for its appalling behaviour on the world stage, she said.

This is a dangerous moment for Europe and really for freedom-loving people everywhere. Putin's assault on Ukraine is an attack on the principles that undergird global peace, stability, and security the world over, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.

But Putin didn't account for everything, and he didn't account for the bravery and resolve of the people of Ukraine. We commend the Ukrainian people for showing strength and determination in response to an unprovoked attack by the Kremlin. We have seen Ukrainian soldiers demonstrate incredible bravery in the first day of self-defence: shooting down Russian aircraft, firing at tanks, and holding many of the positions while under violent assault, he said.

The Kremlin continues to use disinformation, including false reports alleging widespread surrender of Ukrainian troops. Moscow is resorting to outright lies in an effort to weaken the resolve of Ukraine's military and of its people, Price said.

We also are seeing reports that the Russian Federation plans to threaten to kill the family members of Ukrainian soldiers if they do not surrender. These tactics are classic intimidation; they are synonymous with the Kremlin; they are unacceptable. This isn't the first time, of course, Putin has decided that his country can attack another country with impunity, he said.

Putin's war of choice has required that we follow through on imposing the massive consequences and severe costs, and that we ensure his flagrant violation of international law will be a strategic failure. We stand united with our NATO allies and partners in Europe and around the world in confronting the Russian government and holding President Putin and those around him to account, Price said.

Senator Jack Reed, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the sanctions.

He said, "With these targeted, personal sanctions that go directly after Putin and Lavrov assets, President Biden has made it clear: those who ordered the illegal invasion of Ukraine will pay a severe price.

Combined with earlier sanctions, the Kremlin is already suffering the weight of the international response. The value of Russia's currency has fallen massively, its economy is starting to lose access to the world's financial systems, and its technology and military industries will soon feel the pinch of these historic actions, Reed said.
 

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