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Putin’s daughters suspected of controlling the president’s money

Vladimir Putin’s daughters could be in control of some of his money, the US says.

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The United States has announced sanctions targeting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters and relatives of oligarchs, who are suspected of hiding cash.

Russia’s 42-day-long invasion has forced more than four million people to flee abroad, killed or injured thousands, left a quarter of the population homeless and turned entire cities into rubble.

Growing evidence of war crimes – including an alleged “genocide” in the town of Bucha – has prompted the West to announce further sanctions.

On Thursday morning, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed the latest atrocities were not “far short of genocide”.

Britain has announced further sanctions against eight oligarchs and Russian banks, including the country’s largest, Sberbank, and Credit Bank of Moscow.

New measures announced by Washington include severe financial sanctions on Russia’s largest private bank, Alfa Bank, and its largest financial institution, Sberbank.

The sanctions aim to stop assets from going through the US financial system and barring Americans from doing business with those two institutions.

“We’re going to keep raising the economic costs and ratchet up the pain for Putin, and further increase Russia’s economic isolation,” US President Joe Biden said.

The United Kingdom and the European Union were also set to take additional steps, including a ban on new investment in Russian and an EU embargo on coal.

Here’s the latest on Thursday morning.

Sanctions target family members

In addition to sanctions aimed at Mr Putin’s adult daughters, Mariya Putina and Katerina Tikhonova, the US is targeting other figures close to the Russian president.

They include Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin; the wife and children of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; and members of Russia’s Security Council, including Dmitry Medvedev, a former president and prime minister.

The penalties cut all of Mr Putin’s close family members off from the US financial system and freeze their American assets.

Mr Biden called the latest round of sanctions “devastating.”

“I made clear that Russia would pay a severe and immediate price for its atrocities in Bucha,” he said in a tweet.

The announcement described Ms Tikhonova as “a tech executive whose work supports the GoR [Russian government] and defence industry”.

It said Ms Vorontsova “leads state-funded programs that have received billions of dollars from the Kremlin toward genetics research and are personally overseen by Putin”.

Katerina Tikhonova was previously known as Yekaterina Vladimirovna Putina. Photo: Reuters/Twitter

The BBC reported a senior Biden administration official said the US thought the two daughters could be in control of some of their father’s assets.

“We have reason to believe that Putin, and many of his cronies, and the oligarchs, hide their wealth, hide their assets, with family members that place their assets and their wealth in the US financial system, and also many other parts of the world,” the official said.

Mr Biden was expected to sign an an executive order that would ban new investment in Russia by Americans no matter where they are living.

The US Treasury Department is preparing more sanctions against major Russian state-owned enterprises, according to the White House.

Labor calls for expulsion of Russian diplomats

Russian diplomats must be expelled from Australia to hold the Kremlin accountable for reported atrocities in Ukraine, the opposition leader says.

Anthony Albanese has renewed calls for the federal government to follow the lead of European countries which have already taken such a measure.

He said countries including France, Germany and Italy have taken steps to expel 206 Russian diplomats and staff, while allowing ambassadors to remain in most cases.

“It is hard to conceive how the decision can be made to allow these individuals to stay, given the sickening abuses being carried out by Russian forces,” Mr Albanese said.

“The mass killing of innocent civilians and the use of rape as a weapon of war can only be described as war crimes.”

Russia has denied targeting civilians during its retreat from towns like Bucha, but Ukrainian officials say between 150 and 300 bodies lay in a single mass grave by a church in the town.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has previously resisted calls to expel diplomats from Australia and says the matter is being reviewed at the highest level of government.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s top diplomat in Australia, ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said there was no prospect of a peace deal between the Russians and Ukrainians in the foreseeable future.

“(Putin) is taking Russia to those last days of the Soviet Union when it was collapsing,” he told Sky News.

“He’s done so much damage for the country and I don’t know when Russia will be able to repair that reputation.”

-with AAP