US sanctions Putin girlfriend, Russian billionaires

The Biden administration on Tuesday imposed sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rumored girlfriend Alina Kabaeva and several other wealthy Russians, further squeezing Moscow over its war in Ukraine.  

The Treasury Department said in an announcement that it was designating Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast who currently heads the pro-Kremlin National Media Group and who is reportedly the longtime girlfriend of the Russian president. The Treasury announcement acknowledges only that Kabaeva has a “close relationship” to Putin. 

The announcement comes after the United Kingdom and European Union imposed sanctions on Kabaeva earlier this year. The White House had held off doing so until now.  

“As innocent people suffer from Russia’s illegal war of aggression, Putin’s allies have enriched themselves and funded opulent lifestyles,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement on Tuesday.  

“The Treasury Department will use every tool at our disposal to make sure that Russian elites and the Kremlin’s enablers are held accountable for their complicity in a war that has cost countless lives. Together with our allies, the United States will also continue to choke off revenue and equipment underpinning Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” Yellen said.  

As a result, any property Kabeava holds in the United States will be blocked. 

Treasury also imposed sanctions on Russian billionaire Andrey Guryev, a former Kremlin official and founder of Russian chemical company PhosAgro, and his son. Guryev owns the Witanhurst estate in London, estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and has already been sanctioned by the U.K. 

Treasury said Tuesday it has identified a yacht owned by Guryev in the Cayman Islands, the Alfa Nero, as blocked property that officials are now likely to look to seize.  

Additionally, the administration said it is sanctioning Russian billionaire Viktor Rashnikov and the Russian steel company he owns, MMK, as well as two of its subsidiaries.

Natalya Popova, first deputy director of the Russian tech company Institute Innopraktika, will also be subject to new sanctions, the announcement said.  

And the Biden administration said it was imposing sanctions on a financial institution called Joint Stock Company Promising Industrial and Infrastructure Technologies for trying to circumvent earlier sanctions imposed on the Russian Direct Investment Fund.  

The Biden administration has periodically imposed rounds of financial sanctions and visa restrictions on wealthy Russians, Kremlin-linked individuals, and Russian financial institutions and companies in order to increase pressure on Putin as he presses forward with the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. has also supplied Ukraine with billions of dollars in weaponry as it battles the Russian assault, which recently entered its sixth month with no signs of a resolution.

The White House on Monday announced plans to send another $550 million in security assistance to Ukraine, including ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, which help Ukrainian forces strike targets from longer distances.