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US sanctions Russian oligarchs, Hungary-based bank

April 12, 2023

The new designations were coordinated between the US Treasury and State departments and the United Kingdom. Among those sanctioned are Russian oligarchs Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovich.

Russian International Investment Bank in Budapest
The United States has imposed sanctions on a number of individuals and entities over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, including this Budapest-based bankImage: Martin Fejer/EST&OST/IMAGO

The United States and Britain on Wednesday announced new sanctions on 120 people and entities over Russia's war in Ukraine.

Among those sanctioned are Russian oligarchs Alisher Usmanov and Roman Abramovich, who are close allies of President Vladimir Putin.

The US also imposed sanctions on three top officials at the Russian-controlled International Investment Bank in the Hungarian capital, Budapest.

The new designations were coordinated between the US Treasury and State departments and the United Kingdom.

What do we know about the sanctions?

Usmanov has been subject to US and European sanctions since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The US Treasury has described Usmanov as having "at his disposal a wide network of businesses in financial safe havens and family members through which to conduct financial transactions, enabling him to potentially circumvent sanctions."

The State Department said it targeted the businessman's company, USM Holdings, and multiple firms under it.

Last year, German authorities raided several of the Uzbekistan-born oligarchs properties and his yacht.

Also targeted was the Patriot private military company, which the State Department said was associated with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

China HEAD Aerospace Technology Co, a China-based satellite image reseller, was hit by sanctions for allegedly providing satellite imagery of locations in Ukraine to the Russian Wagner mercenary group.

Washington also hit firms based in Hong Kong, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates with sanctions, claiming that the companies had sold drones and electronics to Russia's defense sector.

International Investment Bank sign
The US has sanctioned three officials of the International Investment Bank in BudapestImage: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

US sanctions Russian-controlled bank in Hungary

Among those sanctioned by the US were three officials of the Russian-controlled International Investment Bank (IIB) in Hungary.

This included the Russian nationals Nikolay Kosov and Georgy Potapov and the Hungarian national Imre Laszloczki. Kosov is the bank's former chairman and Potapov and Laszlocki are high-ranking officials on the institution's management board.

"The presence of this opaque Kremlin platform (IIB) in the heart of Hungary threatens the security and sovereignty of the Hungarian people, their European neighbours, and their NATO allies," U.S. Ambassador to Budapest David Pressman told a news conference in Budapest.

Pressman said that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban had dismissed Washington's concerns over the bank.

"We have concerns about the continued eagerness of Hungarian leaders to expand and deepen ties with the Russian Federation despite Russia's ongoing brutal aggression against Ukraine and threat to transatlantic security," Pressman said.

"With this announcement, the United States is demonstrating that we will take action in response to Hungary's choices and to curb the access of Russia and sanctioned Russian persons to the international financial system."

NATO-member Hungary was one of the eastern European countries to secure exemptions on EU sanctions on Russian oil delivered by land or pipeline.

On Tuesday, Hungary's Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto also said that Russian state energy company Gazprom had signed a new agreement with the government in Budapest allowing scope for more gas deliveries than already agreed to in long-term contracts, should they be necessary.

Much of the EU meanwhile imports little or no natural gas from Russia. 

What did officials say about the sanctions?

"The United States will continue to take action against Russia and those supporting its war in Ukraine," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

He said this was in line with the G7's "commitment to impose severe consequences on third country actors who support Russia's war in Ukraine."

Brian Nelson, the Treasury's under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the US and its allies would continue to work to "disrupt evasions schemes that support Putin on the battlefield.

"We are closing the net on the Russian elite and those who try to help them hide their money for war," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement, adding that there would be "no place to hide."

sdi/msh (AFP, Reuters)