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Ukraine has now lost control of its Chernobyl plant to the Russians, and the first Ukrainian refugees have arrived in neighboring Poland, as the UK makes the first move to slap damaging sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin who has threatened what analysts believe is a nuclear option against anyone intending to meddle in the situation.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new sanctions on Russia, including freezing the assets of all major banks. The target list includes VTB bank, which is Russia’s second-largest.
Russian companies and the Russian government will also be barred from raising money on UK markets, and an export ban on high-tech products, including oil refinery equipment, will be put in place. Additionally, Russian airline Aeroflot is barred from landing in the UK.
In all, some 100 new individuals and entities will be sanctioned by the UK.
These are the hardest-hitting sanctions slapped on Russia so far, as they target Putin’s closest circle of oligarchs. Among them, and included on the list, is Putin’s ex-son-in-law, Kirill Shamalov, Russia’s youngest billionaire.
Speaking to the House of Commons, Johnson called Putin a “bloodstained aggressor” and described the sanctions as "the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen".
Johnson also said the G7 group would be uniting to "maximise the economic price that Putin will pay for his aggression" and that Belarus would be added to the sanctions, as well, the BBC reported.
The sanctions come shortly after Putin issued what appears to have been a veiled nuclear threat, according to some analysts.
"Whoever tries to impede us, let alone create threats for our country and its people, must know that the Russian response will be immediate and lead to the consequences you have never seen in history," Putin said earlier on Thursday.
The threat comes as Russia attacks from all sides, seeking to control the capital and the Black Sea ports, as well as reports of incursions into western Ukraine.
Whether President Putin fully intended to threaten an all-out nuclear strike, the message he is trying to send, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer told CBS this morning, is that Ukraine belongs to him. “What Putin is saying is that this country is mine. I am taking it. I am working to reintegrate the Russian Empire.”
Reintegrating Ukraine would go a long way to reversing the collapse of the Soviet empire. A collapse that was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” Putin said back in 2005.
Putin’s definition of “meddling” could include sanctions that are in the works and expected to be severely painful, with a global impact.
But the energy markets are eyeing more than a potential nuclear strike.
New sanctions–which could include oil or even gas-related assets and finances beyond the UK’s ban on oil refinery equipment and fundraising–could be announced as early as this afternoon from the United States.
Brent crude was trading at $102.10 at 1:50 p.m. ET, with WTI at $95.47.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.