Yellen Says Aim Is ‘Maximum Pain’ for Russia Without Hurting U.S.

Yellen Says Aim Is ‘Maximum Pain’ for Russia Without Hurting U.S.


“The asset freezes on the additional banks aren’t nothing, but this isn’t the most significant tranche we’ve seen to date,” said Daniel Tannebaum, a partner at Oliver Wyman who advises banks on sanctions.

Other American agencies are joining the effort to exert pressure on Russia.

In a news conference on Wednesday, officials from the Justice Department and the F.B.I. also announced a series of actions and criminal charges against Russians, including the takedown of a Russian marketplace on the dark web and a botnet, or a network of hijacked devices infected with malware, that is controlled by the country’s military intelligence agency.

Justice Department officials also celebrated the seizing of the Tango, a superyacht owned by the Russian oligarch Viktor F. Vekselberg, and charged a Russian banker, Konstantin Malofeev, with conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions. Mr. Malofeev is one of Russia’s most influential magnates and among the most prominent conservatives in the country’s Kremlin-allied elite. (The indictment renders his surname as Malofeyev.)

At the hearing, Ms. Yellen told lawmakers that she believed Russia should be further isolated from the geopolitical system, including being shut out of international gatherings such as the Group of 20 meetings this year, and should be denounced at this month’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. She added that the United States might not participate in some G20 meetings that are being held in Indonesia this year if Russians attended.

Ms. Yellen, whose department has been developing many of the punitive economic measures, rebutted criticism that the penalties leveled so far had not been effective, in part because there are some exceptions to allow Russia to sell energy.

“Unfortunately, many of our European partners remain heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, as well as oil, and they are committed to making the transition away from that dependence as rapidly as possible,” Ms. Yellen said. The Treasury secretary downplayed the rebound of Russia’s currency, the ruble, which cratered after the sanctions were imposed in February but has since regained its value. Ms. Yellen said that the ruble’s apparent recovery was the result of currency controls that Russia had put in place and that its exchange rate did not reflect its true value.

“The Russian economy is really reeling from the sanctions that we put in place,” Ms. Yellen said, adding, “You shouldn’t really infer anything from the value of the currency.”

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