Biden targets the daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the White House’s latest round of sanctions. Putin’s two daughters, Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova and Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova are suspected by the United States authorities to be hiding their father’s wealth.

“We have reason to believe that Putin, and many of his cronies, and the oligarchs, hide their wealth, hide their assets, with family members that place their assets and their wealth in the US financial system, and also many other parts of the world,” a senior Biden administration official said in a statement to reporters.

Sanctions announced last Wednesday also included Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s daughter and wife, members of the Russian Security Council, former President and Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, and Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.

“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, and that’s why we’re targeting them,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Putin and his family on a boat in Primorsky Krai, 2002. From left to right, Katerina, Vladimir, Lyudmila and Maria (Kremlin.ru, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons). Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_with_family_in_Primorsky_Krai_2002-2.jpg
Putin and his family on a boat in Primorsky Krai, 2002. From left to right, Katerina, Vladimir, Lyudmila, and Maria (Kremlin.ruCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

This round of sanctions follows recent accusations of Russia committing war crimes with international condemnations from the US and its allies for the mass killings in Bucha. Moscow has denied allegations of attacking civilians or committing any war crimes in the particular city. Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said during a recent UN meeting that Ukraine’s allegations were fake.

However, recently intercepted radio communications from the Russians obtained by Germany’s foreign intelligence service reveal that the Russian soldiers were discussing the killings quite casually, with further evidence pointing to the Wagner Group being involved. Furthermore, a recent analysis of satellite images taken from the dates of the Russian occupation of Bucha done by The New York Times also reveals that the dead bodies appeared on dates when Russians had held the city.

The White House also announced that it would further ban American investments in Russia and freeze the assets of more Russian financial institutions and individuals. The move was made in coordination with the G7 and the European Union.

Putin’s wealth is considered a sensitive topic in Russia. The Kremlin has maintained that the Russian leader is of modest wealth. Last year, Russian officials denied allegations from opposition figurehead Alexei Navalny that Putin owned a lavish palace near the Black Sea.

Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last February that the sanctions imposed on Putin would not be of any effect, saying that the Russian leader was indifferent to them.

“The sanctions contain absurd claims about some assets,” Peskov said. “The president has no assets other than those he has declared.”

These assets include the ownership of two small apartment buildings and a stake in a car park garage, according to Putin’s wealth declaration in 2014. However, US legislators believe otherwise.

“Putin and his oligarchs stow their dirty money in rule-of-law nations by purchasing mansions, mega-yachts, artwork, and other high-value assets,” said US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse during the introduction of a new law that will offer a monetary reward for information regarding the assets of Russian oligarchs.

Who Are Putin’s Daughters?

Vladimir Putin with family on a beach in Primorsky Krai in the Russian Far East in 2002. This is an approved photo released by the Kremlin which intentionally does not show the faces of Vladimir Putin's family.
Vladimir Putin with family on a beach in Primorsky Krai in the Russian Far East in 2002. This is an approved photo released by the Kremlin, which intentionally does not show the faces of Vladimir Putin’s family. (Kremlin.ruCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Katerina and Maria never confirmed their relationship with Vladimir Putin and have refused to answer questions on the topic. An investigative report conducted by Reuters looked into the identities of the two daughters.

Katerina, who uses the surname Tikhonova, is a competitive rock n’ roll dancer and an academic. She has competed in international dance competitions and holds a senior position at Moscow State University.

Her ex-husband is Kirill Shamalov, the son of Nikolai Shamalov, a close friend of Putin. Nikolai Shamalov is a senior shareholder in Bank Rossiya, which is regarded as the bank reserved for the Russian elite.

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The former couple’s corporate holdings are approximately worth $2 billion, according to the report. Most of their wealth comes from large stakes in major gas and energy companies acquired from other cronies of Putin.

Maria, the older of the two, has been harder to track than her sister. She studied at St. Petersburg University with a degree in biology and has a degree in medicine from Moscow State University. A doctoral candidate at Endocrinology Research Center in Moscow, she is invested in genetic research and has co-authored several academic papers.

She is married to Dutch businessman Jorrit Joost Faassen, whose last name is now being used by Maria. Her husband worked for Gazprombank, a private banking company with strong ties to Russian oligarchs.

New Sanctions on Russia’s Banks

The new round of sanctions also targets Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank, and Alfa-Bank, the largest private bank. Assets from these financial institutions that touch the US financial system will be frozen.

“Any transaction, in any currency with a US person or US institution is prohibited,” a senior White House official said, who claimed that this was the most extreme financial action they could make.

According to the White House, this new set of sanctions will contract Russia’s GDP by 15% this year, which would wipe out 15 years’ worth of economic growth and will likely lose its position as a major economy.

Sberbank is Russia’s largest bank overall, while Alfa-Bank is the fourth largest. According to the official, the addition of these two financial institutions implies that the US has blocked two-thirds of the Russian banking sector.

The US and its allies are “intensifying the most severe sanctions ever levied on a major economy” with the intent to send Russia “into economic and financial and technological isolation,” said the official.