WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday joined the European Union in directly sanctioning President Vladimir Putin, as Russian forces continued a brutal invasion of Ukraine, threatening to take over the capital city of Kyiv.
Putin has “perpetrated horrific aggression against Ukraine,” the Treasury Department said in a release detailing the sanctions that also targeted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other members of Russia’s security council.
Treasury’s actions essentially mean that any property or monetary assets Putin or his top advisers may have in the U.S. are frozen.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the decision to go after Putin’s finances was made after consultation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. She said the sanctions also include a travel ban.
Sanctioning Putin is largely symbolic. The Russian leader has buried his wealth, making it difficult to freeze his assets. Asked by reporters Thursday whether the U.S. knew where Putin’s money was, deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh responded: “Not going to comment on that.”
Some experts have estimated that Putin’s net worth is in the tens of billions.
The Biden administration has been ratcheting up sanctions against Moscow over the past few days, working in coordination with European allies to take measures in hopes of deterring Putin from a wide-scale attack against Ukraine.
President Joe Biden on Thursday restricted the exports of some products from the U.S. to Russia, blocking Moscow’s ability to acquire semiconductor chips and other technology essential to defense, aerospace and other critical sectors. He also announced sanctions targeting Russian banks and elites with close ties to Putin, freezing every asset Russia has in the U.S.
Earlier in the week, Biden sanctioned large Russian financial institutions, elites and worked with allies halt the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
But those actions appeared to do little to keep Putin from pushing Russian forces farther into Ukraine on Friday, as Kyiv was rocked by explosions and the sound of air-raid sirens. Ukrainian officials encouraged residents of the capital city to make Molotov cocktails to defend against the Russian military.
Biden spoke with Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier Friday after the Ukrainian president released a video message lamenting that Ukraine had been “left alone” to fight Russia. In the video, Zelenskyy pledged to stay in Kyiv and said that he was Russia’s “No. 1 target.”
Dareh Gregorian contributed.