Sanctions efforts on Putin face obstacles

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Putin family in sanctions crosshairs; most assets remain untouchable

Targeting Vladimir Putin with sanctions related to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been both easy and difficult. The U.S. and European nations sanctioned Putin associates and oligarchs almost immediately.

But Putin himself makes a mere $140,000 a year and has only a small apartment, according to official Russian sources. International efforts to support Ukraine, however, have exposed a new level of insight into the Machiavellian tactics of Putin’s amassing of mind-bogglingly vast riches.

A range of authorities and investigative journalists have dug more deeply than ever into Putin’s wealth, and one can imagine that he is seething over deep incursions into his previously private family matters and financial machinations.

Scrutiny due to the Ukraine invasion has helped reveal, for example, much more about Putin’s current paramour Alina Kabaeva, his ex-wife Lyudmila Ocheretnaya, his acknowledged daughters, and his apparent several children from various affairs.

The New York Times has written in depth about how Putin has previously reacted with great anger and offense at any incursion into his private life. But any privacy consideration for his family has ended with the Ukraine invasion. And investigators are finding that his now-sanctioned adult daughters are billionaires themselves. Pretty much anyone in his family circle magically receive extraordinary gifts and jobs and dachas from billionaire oligarchs created by Putin.

While analysts and authorities have long known that associates—from oligarchs to chefs to musicians to distant relatives—hold billions for Putin, they are learning more and more about how Putin has stashed billions and billions in the Russian state itself. That tactic has helped shield Putin’s de facto assets from the reach of sanctions on individuals.

Sanctioning individuals is one thing, but sanctioning an entire nation with key resources—especially energy resources that are traded around the globe—would be much more difficult and much less desirable, according to analysts.

The Times reporting digs deeply into the labyrinthine structures of jaw-dropping levels of luxury the Russian state provides for Putin’s exclusive use and control. For those of us working in financial institutions or companies that create AML/KYC solutions and RegTech solutions, this newly magnified window into the challenges of sanctions efforts and related Compliance is both fascinating and illuminating.


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