The US has imposed its most severe level of sanctions on Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution, and Alfa-Bank, the country’s biggest private bank, escalating its economic punishment of Moscow in response to atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
The announcement on Wednesday of “full blocking sanctions”, which prevent the lenders from transacting with any US institutions or individuals, came after top officials including President Joe Biden warned this week that they were planning to impose harsher restrictions on Russia.
“There’s nothing less happening than major war crimes,” Biden said at an event in Washington on Wednesday, during which he listed some of the atrocities committed in Ukraine.
Edward Fishman, a former Russia and Europe sanctions lead at the state department, called Wednesday’s measures “the most significant sanctions taken since the [Russian] central bank sanctions” imposed in late February.
“We’re headed towards Iran-style sanctions,” he added, referring to the decades-long measures against Tehran beginning in 1979. “This is a conveyor belt and it only leads in one direction.”
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