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US sanctions Putin, Lavrov over Russian military operation in Ukraine******
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing in the White House on February 25, 2022.
The administration of US President Joe Biden will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over Moscow's ongoing military operation in Ukraine, the White House confirmed on Friday.
"In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told a regular news briefing on Friday, adding more specifics will be announced later in the day.
The US move followed that of the European Union and Britain, which announced sanctions targeting the top Russian leadership earlier on Friday.
Biden on Thursday announced additional US sanctions against Russia targeting the country's major financial institutions and an additional number of Russian individuals and their family members with ties to the Kremlin, on top of the so-called "first tranche" of sanctions imposed on Russian state-owned banks, the Russian sovereign debt market as well as individual elites.
Asked about the possibility of his Russian counterpart, Biden didn't commit to that on Thursday, only saying it remained an option on the table.
Psaki said Friday the reason Biden waited until after the EU and Britain announced their sanctions against the Russian president to decide on his own move is that his "strong principle ... has been to take actions and steps in alignment with our European partners."
Also on Friday, a senior administration official said future US sanctions will not target Russian oil and gas industry.
"The sanctions will not target the oil flows as we go forward," Amos Hochstein, the State Department's senior energy security adviser, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television.
Hochstein said doing so won't necessarily reduce Russia's oil and gas revenue, and may instead lead to a scenario where "the United States and our allies would suffer the consequences."
At least 31 drown as migrant boat sinks in English Channel******
Migrants are helped ashore from a Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat at Dungeness in southeast England on Wednesday. Dozens of others died in a separate sinking.。
At least 31 migrants bound for Britain died on Wednesday when their boat sank in the English Channel, in what France's interior minister called the biggest migration tragedy on the dangerous crossing to date.。
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said 34 people were believed to have been on the boat. Authorities found 31 bodies – including those of five women and a young girl – and two survivors, he said. One person appeared to still be missing. The nationalities of the travelers was not immediately known.。
The regional maritime authority, which oversees rescue operations, later said 27 bodies were found, two people survived and four others were missing and presumed drowned. The discrepancy in the numbers was not immediately explained.。
Ever-increasing numbers of people fleeing conflict or poverty in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea or elsewhere are risking the perilous journey in small, unseaworthy craft from France, hoping to win asylum or find better opportunities in Britain. The crossings have tripled this year from 2020, and another 106 migrants were rescued in French waters on Wednesday alone.。
A joint French-British search operation for survivors of the sinking was called off late on Wednesday. Both countries cooperate to stem migration across the Channel but also accuse each other of not doing enough – and the issue is often used by politicians on both sides pushing an anti-migration agenda.。
Four suspected traffickers were arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of being linked to the sunken boat, Darmanin told reporters in the French port city of Calais. He said two of the suspects later appeared in court.。
The regional prosecutor opened an investigation into aggravated manslaughter, organized illegal migration and other charges after the sinking.。
Lille Prosecutor Carole Etienne said officials were still working to identify the victims and determine their ages and nationalities, and that the investigation may involve multiple countries.。
"It's a day of great mourning for France, for Europe, for humanity to see these people die at sea," Darmanin said. He lashed out at "criminal traffickers" driving thousands to risk the crossing. Activists demonstrated outside the port of Calais on Wednesday night, accusing governments of not doing enough to respond to migrants' needs. Hundreds of people live in precarious conditions along the French coast, despite regular police patrols and evacuation operations.。
The bodies were brought to the Calais port, said Jean-Marc Puissesseau, head of the ports of Calais and Boulogne. "We were waiting for something like this to happen," he said, given the growing numbers of people risking the passage. Aid groups blamed European governments for increasingly hard-line migration policies.。
"The UK is not a choice, it is an escape, an escape for people fleeing the lack of welcome in Europe," said Nikolai Posner of French charity Utopia 56.。
Darmanin urged coordination with the UK, saying "the response must also come from Great Britain."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke after the sinking and agreed "that it is vital to keep all options on the table to stop these lethal crossings and break the business model of the criminal gangs behind them," Johnson's office said. Macron stressed "the shared responsibility" of France and the UK.。
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