US preparing further sanctions against Russian oligarchs

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WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States is preparing a sanctions package targeting more Russian oligarchs as well as their companies and assets, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday (March 2), as Washington steps up pressure against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Washington has imposed several rounds of sanctions, including against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the central bank, after Russia's forces invaded Ukraine in the biggest assault on a European state since World War II.

Moscow calls the assault a "special operation". The measures included sanctions against what the US Treasury Department said were Russian "elites", including some with ties to Sberbank, VTB, Rosneft and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

The Washington Post, which first reported the United States was preparing to expand sanctions on Russian oligarchs, said the list of people being readied by the White House and Treasury will overlap with some of those sanctioned by the European Union on Monday, including Mr Alisher Usmanov, the owner of an iron and steel conglomerate.

The EU on Monday imposed sanctions on 26 prominent people over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including oligarchs and business people active in the oil, banking and finance sectors.

It also targeted government members, high-level military people, and "propagandists who contributed to spread anti-Ukrainian propaganda", the EU said in a statement.

Several people included on the EU's list on Monday are not yet designated by the United States, including Mr Nikolay Tokarev, the chief executive of energy giant Transneft; Mr Dmitry Chernyshenko, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister; and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

State Department spokesman Ned Price on Monday said that US sanctions "will ultimately be symmetrical and mutually reinforcing" with those of US allies and partners.

Washington has repeatedly warned that the United States is prepared to take further measures to hold Moscow to account over its invasion of Ukraine.

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In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, US President Joe Biden said the United States would work to seize the yachts, luxury apartments and private jets of wealthy Russians with ties to Mr Putin.

"We are coming for your ill-begotten gains," Mr Biden said.

The United States and its allies last week announced they would launch a task force to identify and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian companies and oligarchs.

The White House on Wednesday said the United States is "very open" to imposing sanctions on Russia's oil and gas industry as it also weighs the potential market impact, as global oil prices touched eight-year highs and supply disruptions mounted.

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