A Whole Lot of Hammers Are Starting to Drop on Putin and Russia

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    As we reported earlier, Vladimir Putin has been pushed up against the wall by Ukraine’s resistance, the likes of which he did not expect. On Saturday, the U.S. and the EU agreed to block “selected” Russian banks from the SWIFT system. Now, Putin is being pushed even further with a variety of sanctions and actions being taken against him in Europe.

    I reported on Saturday that European countries – even Germany, which had been hesitant – are all providing lethal aid: weapons, ammunition, and fuel. But now, they’re going to be providing fighter jets for the Ukrainians, according to EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell.

    On top of that, they’re also doing something else that may be significant: cutting off Russia from EU airspace and they’re banning “pro-Kremlin” media.

    Meanwhile, the European Union plans to close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund a weapons purchase to assist Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in its latest response to Russia’s invasion, European Commission officials said Sunday. It marks the first time the block would finance military equipment for a country under attack.

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    That news prompted the U.S. to tell any Americans in Russia to get out immediately before it shuts down.

    Another hammer that may be dropping is important for a couple of reasons.

    Also Monday, neutral Switzerland will consider joining other Western nations in sanctioning Russi. Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said Sunday it was “very probable” the Swiss would follow the EU’s lead and sanction Russia and freeze Russian assets in the country, Reuters reported.

    Taking that step is a big statement from traditionally neutral Switzerland. It’s also true that Switzerland has a lot of Russian money squirreled away in bank accounts there. Freezing that is going to make all the money people very unhappy with Putin.

    That may explain why two Russian billionaires – Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska – are calling for an end to the fighting.

    One of Fridman’s long-term partners, Pyotr Aven, attended a meeting at the Kremlin with Putin and 36 other major Russian businessmen last week, the Kremlin said.

    Another Moscow billionaire told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the war was going to be a catastrophe.

    “It is going to be catastrophic in all senses: for the economy, for relations with the rest of the world, for the political situation,” the billionaire said.

    The billionaires who gathered for a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin on Thursday were silent, he said.

    “Businessmen understand very well the consequences. But who is asking the opinion of business about this?”

    They’re not sounding very happy. As we previously reported, Deripaska has been sanctioned before because of his relationship with Putin. Now, you may recall that Christopher Steele previously worked for Deripaska, the guy with the close Putin ties, while also providing information to the operatives engaged by the Clinton campaign. One would hope that this direct line is getting a lot of attention from Special Counsel John Durham. But in terms of this situation, one has to imagine this ups the pressure on Putin all the more.

    Expect a run on the banks in Russia tomorrow.

    Now, the ball is in Putin’s court.

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