the new US sanctions triggered by Russia’s latest actions in Ukraine included targets that had not been hit in the past: family members of those in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
By naming the sons of two power players close to the Russian president, the Biden administration has sent a clear signal that its target list of individual sanctions extends beyond officials and financiers as part of a new effort to close the avenues for Putin’s top associates to protect their wealth by giving it to family members.
Denis Bortnikov and Vladimir Kirienko, both designated for individual sanctions by the Treasury Department on Tuesday, occupy their own prominent positions in Russian affairs. But the two will now have all US-held assets frozen and will no longer be able to deal with US nationals just because their fathers are Putin’s head of domestic intelligence and one of Putin’s closest advisers respectively.
“They share the corrupt gains of Kremlin policies and should share the pain as well,” Biden said Tuesday.
Sanctioning the sons of two of Putin’s closest officials does not have the impact of other measures announced on Tuesday, including imposing sanctions on two of Russia’s most important banks and reducing the country’s ability to access Western finance.
But they are meant to disrupt a very personal element of the Russian economy, driven by the reality that Putin’s inner circle and his family members linked to him represent an extraordinary consolidation of wealth and power within from the country.
“This is unprecedented as we expand the reach of US sanctions to prevent elites close to Putin from using their children to hide assets, evade costs and squander the resources of the Russian people,” a senior Russian official said. Biden administration to CNN. “It’s a new approach.”
Clearly, officials say, the first salvo of this approach is unlikely to be the last.
The sanctions target “powerful Russians in Putin’s inner circle suspected of participating in the kleptocracy of the Russian regime and their family members”. according to the Treasury Department.
Denis Bortnikov is the son of Aleksandr Bortnikov, the powerful head of the Federal Security Service, Russia’s domestic intelligence service known as the FSB. The elder Bortnikov, already subject to sanctions in March last year, was reappointed for sanctions in the new round.
Vladimir Kirienko is the son of Sergei Kirienko, the former prime minister and current first deputy chief of staff in the presidential office, considered by US officials as “the conservative of Putin’s domestic politics”. The eldest Kiriyenko, also sanctioned in 2021, was also renewed on Tuesday for sanctions.
The new designations were necessary to create the legal pathway to target their sons for designation, which freezes all real property and interests in the United States, or in the possession or control of a US citizen.
Both sons currently hold their own high-profile positions – Bortnikov as vice president of VTB Bank, one of Russia’s largest financial institutions, and Kiriyenko as recently installed CEO of VK Group, which serves as a company mother at Russian social media company VK. , which calls itself “Europe’s largest social network”.
A third individual sanctioned, Petr Fradkov, is the CEO of Promsvyazbank, the military bank also targeted by sanctions on Tuesday. But he, too, bears a key family connection to the upper echelons of Putin’s orbit.
Fradkov is the son of Mikhail Fradkov, former Russian Prime Minister and former head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or SVR. The elder Fradkov was targeted by sanctions by the United States in 2018.
Learn more about penalties here.