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Biden announces over 500 new sanctions for Russia's war in Ukraine and Navalny death

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden on Defender of the Fatherland Day, in Moscow, Friday.
Sergey Guneev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Alexander Garden on Defender of the Fatherland Day, in Moscow, Friday.

Updated February 23, 2024 at 10:10 AM ET

The United States is imposing sanctions on more than 500 targets connected to Russia's war machine and the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the government said Friday.

The White House announced the move a day before the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions focus on Russia's core financial infrastructure, as well as people and entities in other countries the U.S. says are helping supply Russia with critical technology and equipment, and to evade sanctions.

In a statement issued by the White House, President Biden said Ukraine is "running out of ammunition." He called on the House of Representatives to approve new military aid for Ukraine, which is being blocked by Republicans.

"History is watching," the president said. "The failure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will not be forgotten."

The measures are the largest sanctions imposed since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, the Treasury Department said.

"There are some companies out there in these third countries that are wittingly providing resource and material support to Russia's military industrialized complex," Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said briefing journalists Thursday evening. "We're going to hold them accountable."

Among the companies sanctioned is Russia's state-owned National Payment Card System Joint Stock Co., which operates the Mir payment system widely used in Russia, the Treasury said. Scores of Russian companies producing tanks, lasers and other technology for the war effort are also targeted.

More than two dozen entities and individuals from third countries helping finance or supply technology and equipment to Russia made the sanctions list. They include a Russian-Iranian network called the Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics, which finances and produces one-way attack drones Russia has used against critical infrastructure and other civilian targets in Ukraine.

Companies from China, the United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Germany and elsewhere are also targeted for financing and exporting technology to Russia.

Adeyemo said the new sanctions, taken in partnership with the European Union and the United Kingdom, will help put "sand in the gears of Russia's military industry complex."

Some of the sanctions are in direct response to the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny last week at an Arctic penal colony. The Biden administration says it holds Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government responsible for Navalny's death.

Adeyemo said those sanctions show that "Alexei Navalny's death, and abuses that proceeded it, will not be forgotten or go unanswered."

It's unclear what impact this new round of sanctions will have. Over the past two years, Western nations have imposed roughly 2,000 sanctions on Russian companies, banks and individuals in retaliation for the Ukraine invasion.

Sanctions expert Justine Walker says it was "naïve" to think the first sanctions would have an immediate impact on Russia in the early days of the invasion. She is head of sanctions, compliance and risk at the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists, an organization of over 100,000 members around the world.

But over time, Walker says, "it has made life more difficult and it has meant that Russia has had to really pivot. They've lost their place in the international arena." It's going to be a challenge for Russia to keep up its economic policies with the mounting sanctions, she added.

Russia's economy has withstood the shock, in large part because of oil revenues. Western nations imposed a price cap of $60 a barrel on oil sales — enough to keep Russian crude flowing, but not make profits.

The Biden administration says the Kremlin has lost 40% of its oil revenue. It would be more, but Moscow found ways to circumvent the price cap by using so-called shadow fleets, old vessels that move Russian crude using methods to hide its origin.

Other nations help Russia evade sanctions and ensure consumer goods and critical technology, such as semiconductors and lasers, the White House says, something this new round of sanctions the U.S. hopes will address.

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Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.