Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ex-wife and his reported mistress have been sanctioned by the United Kingdom as part of a crackdown on his “wallet” of personal financiers.
Retired Russian Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva headlines the list of newly sanctioned Putin associates, which emphasizes her “alleged close personal relationship with Putin” — they have multiple children together, according to media reports — and leadership of a major Russian media conglomerate. U.S. officials reportedly declined to target Kabaeva last month due to a concern that it would be “so personal a blow” as to escalate tensions between the United States and Russia, but London forged ahead as the war in Ukraine continues to rage.
“We are exposing and targeting the shady network propping up Putin’s luxury lifestyle and tightening the vice on his inner circle,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Friday. “We will keep going with sanctions on all those aiding and abetting Putin’s aggression until Ukraine prevails.”
British officials are lobbying for a long-term economic sanctions strategy to pressure Putin to abandon the war in Ukraine, which has gone badly thus far for Moscow. Russian forces fell back from their attack on Kyiv to concentrate on taking the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, but even that narrower objective has proven difficult to achieve, and the arrival of heavy weaponry from Western arsenals promises to make the contest more unfavorable for Russia.
“Putin is humiliating himself on the world stage,” Truss said Thursday at the G-7 meeting in Germany. “We must ensure he faces a defeat in Ukraine that denies him any benefit and ultimately constrains further aggression.”
SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW RUSSIAN SHIP TRYING TO DODGE UKRAINIAN MISSILES
Other Western leaders have signaled more of an interest in giving Putin an off-ramp from the war, which could soon trigger a famine in countries dependent on the grain exports trapped in blockaded Ukrainian ports, an issue that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz raised Friday in a 75-minute call with Putin, his first in weeks.
“There must be a ceasefire in Ukraine as soon as possible,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron cautioned earlier this week against the “humiliation” of Russia. “We will have a peace to build tomorrow. Let us never forget that,” Macron said Sunday. “We will have to do this with Ukraine and Russia around the table. The end of the discussion and the negotiation will be set by Ukraine and Russia. But it will not be done in denial, nor in exclusion of each other, nor even in humiliation.”
Truss’s team adopted a different strategy, targeting not only Kabaeva and her grandmother, but also former Russian first lady Lyudmila Ocheretnaya and three businessmen who share Putin’s family name, along with half a dozen other friends and associates.
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“Official records list modest assets for President Putin including: a small flat in St Petersburg, 2 Soviet-era cars from the 1950s, a trailer, and a small garage,” the British foreign office emphasized. "In reality, Putin relies on his network of family, childhood friends, and selected elite who have benefited from his rule and in turn support his lifestyle. Their reward is influence over the affairs of the Russian state that goes far beyond their formal positions.”