The Biden administration on Wednesday unveiled a wave of export controls targeting oil refining, a key revenue source that supports the Russian military, a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin began his invasion of neighboring Ukraine.
“The United States will take actions to hold Belarus accountable for enabling Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, weaken the Russian defense sector and its military power for years to come, target Russia’s most important sources of wealth, and ban Russian airlines from U.S. airspace,” it said.
Among the measures are restrictions extending export control policies to Belarus, and preventing the country from diverting items such as technology and software in the defense, aerospace, and maritime sectors to Russia.
The new round of sanctions announced by the White House would ban the export of specific refining technologies, making it harder for Russia to modernize its oil refineries.
However, at this stage, it has stopped short of direct sanctions on imports of Russian oil.
“The United States and our Allies and partners do not have a strategic interest in reducing the global supply of energy, which is why we have carved out energy payments from our financial sanctions,” the White House said of its sanctions.
Meanwhile, Biden has said that he remains open to banning Russian oil in order to penalize Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. “We’re considering it. It’s very much on the table, but we need to weigh what all of the impacts will be,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told MSNBC.
The U.S. Commerce Department, which oversees U.S. export controls, said the export controls will “degrade both nations’ ability to sustain military aggression.”
“The photos, videos, and reports coming out of Ukraine are heart wrenching—both due to the brutality of the Russian assault, and for the amazing resolve of the Ukrainian people,” Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo said in a statement. “Their resilience in the face of unimaginable aggression has galvanized a robust international response.”
Raimondo added, “The Commerce Department will continue to lead strong, coordinated action with our global allies and partners to apply maximum pressure on Russia, its enabler Belarus, and any other parties that may seek to support them.”
The White House said that the United States, its partners and allies share a strong interest in “degrading Russia’s status as a leading energy supplier over time.”
The statement added, “These actions will help further that goal, while protecting American consumers.”
The European Union also approved new sanctions against Belarus for its supporting role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, effectively banning about 70 percent of all imports from the country, the EU said on Wednesday.
The United States has steadily increased sanctions on Moscow after Putin began the Duma-approved invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Belarus has allowed Russian troops to use its territory as a staging ground for the assault.
The U.S. State Department will also impose sanctions targeting 22 Russian defense-related entities, including firms that make combat aircraft and missiles for the country’s military, to “further restrict Putin’s war machine,” the White House said.
Reuters contributed to this report.