Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed US President Joe Biden during their latest call for more sanctions to further squeeze Russia, CNN has learned.
According to multiple sources familiar with the call, Zelensky specifically asked Biden for further efforts to cut off Russia from international trade and to continue targeting the Russian elite, as the US has continued to add more oligarchs and their families to its sanctions list. Zelensky also mentioned closing off Russia’s access to international waterways during the call.
Zelensky and Biden spoke for 49 minutes on Friday.
During the wide-ranging call, Biden detailed the latest actions he was about to announce, including a move to revoke Russia’s favored trade status with the US.
Zelensky thanked Biden for the measures, but also urged him to continue ratcheting up the economic pressure on the Kremlin.
Biden on Friday called for suspending normal trade relations with Russia – a move that requires approval from Congress – as part of an effort to ramp up economic pressure on Russia for invading Ukraine. Biden said the US, along with the G7 and European Union, will call for revoking “most favored nation” status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations, or PNTR, in the US. The President also said G7 leaders would seek to deny Russia the ability from borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
The President announced the US would ban goods from several signature sectors of Russia’s economy, including seafood, vodka and non-industrial diamonds. In addition to banning several imports, he said he would sign an executive order ending the exportation of luxury items – including spirits, tobacco, clothing, jewelry, cars and antiques – to Russia.
A White House official told CNN at the time that the administration’s goal is to continue pressuring Putin by hurting Russian oligarchs and the country’s wealthiest people by depriving them of their creature comforts. It is also aimed at removing ways for these oligarchs to shelter their money, as they are already increasingly closed off from traditional financial avenues, according to the official.
The US and its allies have issued a wide range of actions in recent weeks intended to punish Moscow for the invasion, including harsh new sanctions and export controls aimed at imposing severe costs on the Russian economy.
The US is prohibiting American dollar transactions with the Russian central bank and fully blocking the Russian Direct Investment Fund to prevent Russia from mitigating some of the effects of the sanctions.
The White House, along with the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and Canada, announced this weekend they would expel certain Russian banks from SWIFT, the high-security network that connects thousands of financial institutions around the world.
Biden has also banned Russian aircraft from US airspace, joining a growing number of countries who have closed their skies to Russia. The US and its allies have also agreed to release 60 million barrels of oil from their reserves. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and one of the largest exporters of oil.
This story has been updated with additional background information.