The United States has further tightened sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin, this time including his two daughters.
The new U.S. sanctions came after the atrocities committed by Russian troops in the Ukrainian town of Bucha came to light.
Russia claims the allegations are unsubstantiated and the images were faked by Kyiv officials.
Satellite imagery, however, showed the civilians were killed as the Russians took control of Buta, but Putin on Wednesday described the incident as a “brutal and contemptuous provocation by the Kyiv regime.”
US President Biden described the Boucha incident as a “major war crime”.
Biden also said that “responsible nations must come together to hold these perpetrators accountable.”
“Putin’s assets are related to his family”
The U.S. said Putin’s youngest daughter Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova and eldest daughter Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova) will also be subject to U.S. sanctions “because they are Putin’s adult children, and Putin’s property and earnings have been blocked”.
When asked why the U.S. was targeting Putin’s daughters, a senior Biden administration official said the U.S. believes they may hold some of her father’s assets.
“We have reason to believe that Putin and many of his cronies and oligarchs hid their wealth, hid their assets, and their family members placed their assets and wealth in the financial system of the United States, and the rest of the world, ” said the official.
“We believe that many of Putin’s assets are hidden with family members, which is why we are targeting them.”
The U.S. side described Tikhonova as “a technical executive whose job is to support the GoR (the Russian government) and the defense industry.”
Her older sister Vorontsova “leads state-funded projects”. The projects have received billions of dollars from the Kremlin for genetics research and are overseen by Putin himself.
More about Putin’s daughter
Putin has been cautious when it comes to his family.
In 2015, during a marathon press conference, he sidestepped questions about his daughter’s identity.
“I’m proud of my daughters who live and study only in Russia. They are fluent in three foreign languages. I never discuss my family with anyone,” he said.
“Everyone has the right to decide their own destiny, they live their lives and they live with dignity,” he added.
He probably didn’t want to say his daughters’ names, but someone was already saying it. Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35, were mentioned in the latest round of U.S. sanctions.
While there are few official accounts of Putin’s family life, texts, media reports and occasional public statements are enough to paint a picture of who the sisters really are.
The sisters are the daughters of Putin and his ex-wife Lyudmila. Putin and Lyudmila married in 1983, when Lyudmila was a flight attendant and Putin was a KGB officer. Their marriage lasted 30 years, including during Putin’s meteoric rise in Russian politics.
In 2013, they broke up. “It was a common decision: we hardly ever meet, each of us has our own life,” Putin said. Lyudmila described Putin as “completely submerged in work.”
Their eldest daughter Maria Vorontsova, born in 1985, studied biology at St. Petersburg University and medicine at Moscow State University.
Vorontsova is now an academic, specializing in the endocrine system. She co-authored a book on childhood stunting, and she is listed as a researcher at the Moscow Research Center of Endocrinology.
Vorontsova is also a businessman and the BBC’s Russian department confirmed she is a co-owner of a company involved in the construction of large medical centres.
Vorontsova is married to Dutch businessman Jorrit Joost Faassen, who previously worked for Russian state energy giant Gazprom, but they are said to have separated.
Those who have spoken to her since the Ukraine invasion have said she supports her father and is skeptical of international reports of the conflict.
Tikhonova is more in the public eye than her sister, largely due to her talent as a rock dancer. She and her companions finished fifth in an international competition in 2013.
That same year, she married Kirill Shamalov, the son of an old friend of Putin’s. Their wedding took place in a high-end ski resort near St. Petersburg. Staff there said the couple arrived in a sleigh pulled by three white horses.
Shamalov was sanctioned by the United States in 2018 for his role in Russia’s energy sector. “His wealth improved dramatically after his marriage,” the U.S. Treasury said. After that, the couple has broken up.
Following the Russian-Ukrainian war, two Russian activists were arrested for occupying a luxury villa in Biarritz said to be owned by Shamalov.
Tikhonova is now active in academia and business. She appeared briefly in Russian state media in 2018 to talk about neurotechnology and also speak at a business forum in 2021. On both occasions, however, there was no mention of her relationship with Putin.
Neither daughter is said to have been with Putin for long.
Putin also has grandchildren. He mentioned them on a conference call in 2017, but didn’t say how many he had or which daughter’s child.
“As for my grandchildren, one is already in kindergarten. Please understand, I don’t want them to grow up like some kind of prince. I want them to grow up like normal people,” he said.