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U.S., Indo-Pacific partners strike harder at Putin, banning Russian imports

The Associated Press and Reuters

Striking harder at Russia’s economy, United States President Joe Biden ordered a ban in early March 2022 on Russian oil imports in retaliation for Vladimir Putin’s onslaught in Ukraine. The major trade action, responding to the pleas of Ukraine’s embattled leader, thrust the U.S. out front as Western nations seek to halt Putin’s invasion.

The ban came just days after Singapore and Japan announced similar sanctions. The day before President Biden’s decision, Japan froze the assets of an additional 32 Russian and Belarusian officials and oligarchs. The Japanese sanctions targeted 20 Russians, including deputy chiefs of staff for Putin’s administration, deputy chairmen of the state parliament, the head of the Chechen Republic and executives of companies with close ties to the government, such as Volga Group, Transneft and Wagner. It also included 12 Belarusian government officials and businesspeople, as well as 12 organizations in Russia and Belarus.

For its part, Singapore sanctioned four Russian banks and placed an export ban on electronics, computers and military items — a rare move by the Indo-Pacific financial hub in response to what it said was Moscow’s “dangerous precedent” in Ukraine.

The tiny city-state, an international shipping hub, rarely imposes sanctions of its own but said it would not allow exports of items that could inflict harm on or subjugate Ukrainians or help Russia launch cyberattacks.

“We cannot accept the Russian government’s violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of another sovereign state,” Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “For a small state like Singapore, this is not a theoretical principle, but a dangerous precedent. This is why Singapore has strongly condemned Russia’s unprovoked attack.”

The restrictions bar Singapore’s financial institutions from  transactions with VTB Bank Public Joint Stock Co., the Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank, Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Co. and Bank Rossiya. The measures also cover cryptocurrencies.

National leaders acknowledged that sanctions may come at a price to their own economies, with President Biden declaring, “Defending freedom is going to cost.” (Pictured: U.S. President Joe Biden announces a ban on Russian oil imports, toughening the toll on Russia’s economy in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.)

Oil imports had not been included in the massive sanctions against Russia. Energy exports had kept a steady stream of cash flowing to Russia despite other severe restrictions on its financial sector.

“We will not be part of subsidizing Putin’s war,” President Biden said, calling his actions a “powerful blow” against Russia’s ability to fund the ongoing offensive.

President Biden said the U.S. was acting in close consultation with European allies, who are more dependent on Russian energy supplies. The announcement marked the latest White House move to cut off Russia from much of the global economy and ensure that the invasion is a strategic loss for Putin, even if he seizes territory. “Ukraine will never be a victory for Putin,” President Biden said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a tweet praised President Biden’s action: “Thankful for US and @POTUS personal leadership in striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine and banning oil, gas and coal from US market. Encourage other countries and leaders to follow.”



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