EU agrees to freeze assets of Sberbank chief Herman Gref, several Russian oligarchs

The logo of Sberbank is seen in Moscow, Russia.

The European Union has agreed to freeze the assets in the EU of the boss of Russia’s top lender Sberbank, Vladimir Putin’s two daughters and more oligarchs, according to a document published in the EU’s official journal on Friday.

Since the start of war in Ukraine, the EU has blacklisted around 700 people linked to the Kremlin or accused of supporting the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special operation”. That has not always, however, led to a quick freezing of assets, amid legal hurdles and sometimes lack of political will read more .

The new measures will hit over 200 additional individuals, mostly from the separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, and also top businessmen, politicians and military staff close to the Kremlin.

Another 18 entities have also been hit by asset freezes, including four banks, such as VTB, and military firms, nearly doubling the number of companies hit by sanctions since the start of the war.

Herman Gref, the head of Sberbank, has been added to the EU blacklist, according to the document, in a move that is important symbolically. The EU has so far refrained from sanctioning the bank, which plays a key role in energy payments.

Putin’s daughters Ekaterina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova have also now been sanctioned for benefiting from the Russian government, the document said.

Putin had already been sanctioned in an early round of restrictive measures, although it is unclear how many assets, if any, he and his family hold in the EU.

Wealthy oligarchs usually use front men or anonymous shell companies and trusts to shield their assets, making it very hard if not impossible for investigators to identify them, especially in jurisdictions with lax rules on companies’ beneficial owners.

Oil company Surgutneftegas’ executive Vladimir Bogdanov, the founder of aluminium giant Rusal, Oleg Deripaska, billionaire Boris Rotenberg, major shareholder in Russia’s top gold miner Polyus Said Kerimov, and the chief of Russian e-commerce platform Ozon Alexander Shulgin have also been sanctioned.

The new listings are part of the EU’s fifth package of sanctions against Russia, which include a ban on coal imports and restrictions for entry into the EU for Russian vessels and lorries.

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