The Australian government has announced fresh sanctions on 33 Russian “oligarchs” including notable billionaire and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich.
The latest tranche of penalties will cover the heads of Russian state-owned enterprises and the armed forces and follows recent sanctions—numbering around 460—from the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, and New Zealand.
Swept up in the Australian sanctions are Gazprom CEO Alexey Miller, Rossiya Chairman Dmitri Lebedev, Rostec Chair Sergey Chemezov, Transneft CEO Nikolay Tokarev, Vnesheconombank Chairman Igor Shuvalov, Russian Direct Investment Fund CEO Kirill Dimitriev, and Abramovich.
“The sanctions announced today reinforce Australia’s commitment to sanction those people who have amassed vast personal wealth and are of economic and strategic significance to Russia, including as a result of their connections to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said in a statement on March 14.
“We will continue to coordinate closely with our partners to impose a high cost on Russia for its actions,” she added. “The Australian government reiterates our strongest support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and for the people of Ukraine.”
Sanctions include asset freezes, travel bans, and restrictions on financial transactions.
Abramovich was disqualified from running the English Premier League team Chelsea after he was sanctioned by UK authorities. The billionaire has, however, vowed to sell the club and direct the proceeds towards aiding the Ukrainian people.
Authorities have also been involved in highly publicised seizures of luxury villas, yachts, and private planes.
Emeritus legal professor Gabriel Moens has raised concerns over the lack of transparency from democratic governments in identifying targets for sanction.
“Simply being an acquaintance of Vladimir Putin is neither a satisfactory nor a sufficient reason for depriving them of their property …” he wrote in The Epoch Times. “This is because the act of seizure implies that they are guilty by association, even if they have not done anything to facilitate, or to support, the Kremlin’s catastrophic decision to invade Ukraine.”
“The reality is that there are oligarchs who oppose the invasion and are prepared to use their resources to help the victims of Putin’s war of aggression.”
Meanwhile, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan has revealed the Biden administration has issued a stern warning to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on any assistance to Moscow.
“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing, that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions, evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” he told CNN.
The warning comes after Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian base just 25 kilometres from NATO-member Poland, killing around 35 people and injuring another 134.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again called on NATO to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, warning that a lack of action could result in Russian missiles hitting NATO territory.
“If you do not close our sky, it is only a matter of time before Russian missiles fall on your territory, on NATO territory, on the homes of NATO citizens,” Zelensky said in a video address.
In response to the invasion, a 2015 video of U.S. political scientist John Joseph Mearsheimer has been circulating online in which he criticises successive American foreign policy experts and presidents for misreading the Ukraine-Russia relationship and oversimplifying the situation by blaming Putin without considering Russia’s strategic interests.
“NATO expansion was driven by 21st century men and women. They believe balance of power politics is dead, that’s what happened here. (But) Putin is a 19th century man, he does view the world in terms of balance of power politics,” Mearsheimer said, in reference to Russian concerns that a westernised and militarised Ukraine would pose a threat.
“We thought we could drive right up to his doorstep, and it wouldn’t matter,” he added. “We should create a neutral Ukraine, which is a buffer state between NATO and Russia.”