Washington has seriously upped the ante on Vladimir Putin by slapping sanctions on some of his most powerful allies.
Now on the U.S. blacklist are Kremlin banker Yuri Kovalchuk and his Bank Rossiya, major oil and commodities trader Gennady Timchenko and the brothers Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, linked to big contracts on gas pipelines and at the Sochi Olympics, as well as Putin’s chief of staff and his deputy, the head of military intelligence and a railways chief. Most have deep ties with Putin and have grown rich during his time in power.
The EU has predictably acted more cautiously, adding a further 12 names to the list of Russian and Crimean officials already hit with travel bans and asset freezes, cancelling an EU-Russia summit and starting preparatory work on broader financial and trade sanctions – “stage 3” which Angela Merkel said would be triggered if Putin escalated the crisis any further.
The dozen new names will be published today.
Russia’s retaliatory sanctions so far look thin – banning senior U.S. politicians from travelling there, which was greeted with derision by the likes of John Boehner and John McCain. But there could be more to follow which will hurt Europe, with its deep economic and trade ties with Russia.
The working assumption remains that it would cost Moscow too much to curb or cut off its gas supplies to the EU. It supplies a third of Europe’s gas and more than a fifth of its oil but the EU has hefty reserves after a mild winter.