US and Canada join EU in imposing direct sanctions on Putin and Lavrov

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) attends a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden of the Moscow Kremlin in Moscow on Wednesday. Photo by Alexei Nikolsky/EPA-EFE/SPUTNIK

February 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 accordance with the decision of our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as members of the Russian national security team,” the Secretary of State said on Friday. White House Press Jen Psaki at a press briefing.

PSAKI added that the United States “will continue to consider a range of options to provide additional assistance” while continuing to provide a security assistance program announced last year.

At the press conference, Psaki was asked if the United States had a warning for Russia if the country were to physically injure or otherwise replace Volodymyr Zelensky as Ukraine’s president.

“There are attempts to do just that and their continued progress towards Kyiv and Ukrainian leadership is aligned with what we predicted,” Psaki said.

“Obviously, prosecuting a head of state is a big and horrible act on the part of the Russian leadership. But we remain in contact with President Zelensky, and he has made it clear that he is still in Ukraine, standing tall and bravely in the face of the Russian attack.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced at a press conference carried by the country’s Cable Public Affairs Channel, a public-access network, that his sanctions would include Putin, Lavrov and Sergei Ivanov, the chief of staff of Putin.

Trudeau also expressed support for excluding Russian banks from the network of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, a highly secure payment system that connects global banks. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also pushed to exclude Russia from SWIFT payments.

“We have made it clear that all options are on the table when it comes to imposing heavy costs on Russia’s unwarranted and unprovoked invasion,” Trudeau said. “Excluding Russian banks from SWIFT would make it even harder for President Putin to fund his brutalities.”

The direct sanctions on Putin and Lavrov came after the European Union, Australia, Taiwan and Japan also imposed sanctions on Russia on Friday.

The day before, the United States, Canada and Britain imposed sanctions on Moscow’s economy in a bid to punish Putin for what they say was an unlawful attack on his neighbor’s sovereignty.

“We are now targeting 70% of the Russian banking market, but also key public companies, including in the field of defence,” said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, during a press conference.

“These sanctions will increase Russia’s borrowing costs, increase inflation and gradually erode Russia’s industrial base. We are also targeting Russia’s elite by limiting their deposits so that they can no longer hide their money in safe havens in Europe.”

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