From harassing yachts to seizing Italian villas, the global effort to punish Russian oligarchs for their financial ties to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been unprecedented. For its part, the US agreed its own special task force — known as Task Force KleptoZapvat — within the Justice Department to seize the assets of a Russian elite trying to evade sanctions.
“There’s a lot more effort this time around to trace their assets,” Timothy Fry, professor of post-Soviet foreign policy at Columbia University, told CNBC. “It will take a long time to sort through a lot of questionable real estate purchases and the like, but there seems to be some commitment to make it happen.”
However, it is not clear whether the oligarchs have enough power over Putin to put an end to Russia’s ongoing pressure on Ukraine, experts say. Imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs could also prove difficult given the strong protection of US property rights, Douglas Rediker, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told CNBC.
“I am not familiar with intelligence that is not public, but it is difficult to point to a specific connection of at least some financial oligarchs with what is now happening in Ukraine at the behest of President Putin,” Rediker explained. .
“This does not mean that their behavior was blameless or justified, or that they are not guilty of various alleged sins,” Rediker said.
Watch the video above to find out how Russian oligarchs came to power and whether global sanctions against billionaires could help end the Russo-Ukrainian war.