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Yellen: US to 'freeze, seize' wealth of Russian oligarchs

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen greets German Economy and Climate Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, at the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington.
Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen greets German Economy and Climate Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck, at the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington. Copyright AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Copyright AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
By AP
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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the Biden administration would make it a priority to strip Russian oligarchs of their wealth.

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US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen used a visit to Chicago on Wednesday to spotlight the Biden administration's determination to strip Russian oligarchs of their wealth in response to Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

“We have made it a priority to go after oligarchs or Russian elites who are key to President Putin’s corrupt power,” Yellen said. She added that Treasury, along with the Justice Department and U.S. allies, plans to “uncover, freeze and seize their wealth around the world.”

Yellen was in Chicago the day after President Joe Biden's State of the Union address to amplify his message as Cabinet members fanned out around the country. She made a point to stop at a bakery in the Ukrainian Village neighbourhood as a show of support.

She followed that with a speech at the University of Illinois-Chicago that suggested the sanctions against Russian companies and powerful individuals will only intensify after a series of salvos that began last week.

After her speech, Yellen told reporters that the Treasury Department would monitor how the sanctions are performing and will find ways to adjust them in case anyone has found workarounds. She also stressed that it's difficult for Russia to avoid the financial bite of the restrictions because the world's largest economies joined together to mutually impose the sanctions.

The sanctions have already had a crushing impact on the Russian economy, causing the ruble to plunge and forcing the closure of the stock market. By targeting oligarchs, the Biden administration is going after the elites who owe their fortunes to Putin and could possibly be used to pressure the Russian leader.

Biden, in his address Tuesday, briefly addressed oligarchs, saying, “We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” pledging that the U.S. and European allies were after their yachts, luxury apartments and private jets.

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