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As Cracks Emerge in Russia, US Plots Fresh Sanctions to Crank UP Pressure on Moscow

New YorkCNN Business — Washington plans to keep piling pressure on Russia through additional sanctions in a bid to force hard choices in Moscow, a senior US official tells CNN.

The preparations of further economic punishments come as cracks emerge in Russia’s economy and society because of the war in Ukraine and sanctions from the West.

Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin is presumed dead in a plane crash exactly two months after launching a shocking but short-lived rebellion against Russia’s military leadership. The cause of the crash is unknown and Russian authorities have launched a criminal investigation.

On the economic front, Russia’s ruble recently plunged to 17-month lows, sinking at one point to less than a penny. Russia’s central bank responded by calling an emergency meeting and spiking interest rates to stem the bleeding.

The scramble in Russia to shore up the crumbling ruble shows the pressure on Moscow is working, the senior US official told CNN.

The United States has steadily imposed sanctions on Russia and the US official said Washington plans to continue doing so in a bid to ramp up pressure.

Putin denounced the West’s sanctions campaign on Wednesday at an economic summit held in South Africa.

Speaking remotely as he faces an arrest warrant related to the war in Ukraine, Putin slammed “illegitimate sanctions practice and illegally freezing of assets of sovereign states, which essentially amounts to them trampling upon all the basic norms and rules of free trade and economic life,” according to the video and translation posted on his official website.

Former CIA director David Petraeus argues now is the time for the United States to crank up the pressure on Russia.

“I strongly believe that we should expand on and tighten existing financial, economic and personal sanctions and export controls,” Petraeus, a retired four-star general who serves as chairman of the KKR Global Institute, told CNN on Thursday.

Petraeus said the United States and its allies must work as fast as possible to enable Ukraine on the battlefield by using “all available tools” while simultaneously moving to hurt Russia’s economy.

“We need to do the same with our allies to constrain Russia’s economy and military industrial capacity,” Petraeus said. “The overall objective has to be to hasten the moment that Putin realizes that Russia will not be able to out-suffer the Ukrainians, Europeans and Americans and needs to extricate himself from the disastrous, unwinnable war he has waged on his neighbor.”

The West has already imposed heavy sanctions on Russia, targeting oligarchs, imposing a price cap on oil, banning imports of Russian oil and gold, targeting military equipment and limiting exports of key technology that feed the wear machine.

Future sanctions will be designed to hold Russia accountable for the war in Ukraine and to force Russian officials to make hard decisions, the senior US official told CNN.

“There is absolutely more that can be done,” said Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst at Raymond James. “The Prigozhin plane crash adds to the narrative of Putin as a rogue actor and victory in Ukraine is of the utmost importance.”

For instance, Mills said the West could target Russia’s export of critical minerals, including uranium. Some lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to do just that in a bid to further squeeze Moscow of revenue that could feed its war machine.

However, Russia’s nuclear fuel plays a critical role in Western power grids.

In 2021, the United States relied on Russia’s Rosatom for 14% of the uranium that powered its nuclear reactors, while European utilities bought almost a fifth of their nuclear fuel from the Russian monopoly.

“Part of the reason that has not been targeted is while, yes, that money goes to the Russian economy, the benefit of those minerals goes to the world,” said Mills.

Source : CNN Business