Russia’s top diplomat said on Wednesday that the Kremlin was surprised that Western leaders imposed the level of economic sanctions currently hurting the country — a rare admission of weakness from President Vladimir Putin’s government amid the ongoing destruction in Ukraine.
“When the reserves of the Central Bank were frozen, no one who was predicting what sanctions the West would pass could have pictured that,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told students at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, according to Kommersant. Lavrov also called the sanctions an act of “theft.”
“The Russian Federation must be made to never again depend on supplies from abroad. … Russia has no right to allow dependence on the West in vital sectors of its economy,” Lavrov said, according to Russian state-owned news outlet TASS. The official added that the Kremlin would still be “ready to cooperate” with the West in the future “if they want.”
Putin made the decision in February to invade Ukraine despite NATO and Western leaders holding repeated talks to avoid a war. A large number of nations, including the United States, slammed Russia with increasingly severe sanctions — sending the ruble plummeting and the Russian economy in shambles.
Russia’s Elvira Nabiullina tried to resign from her position as central bank governor after Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing four people with knowledge of the discussion. Putin reportedly ordered her to stay, nominating her for a new five-year term last week so that she’s forced to deal with a wartime economy isolated by global sanctions. Bloomberg’s sources told the outlet that her departure would now be seen as a betrayal by the president.
Anatoly Chubais, Russia’s climate envoy who advised Putin, resigned and left Russia on Wednesday — making him the highest-level officer to quit the Kremlin since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the resignation to the Financial Times, but said Chubais’ reason for leaving is a “personal matter.”
The business oligarch known for overseeing Russian privatization after the fall of the Soviet Union left due to his opposition to the war in Ukraine, according to Bloomberg, citing two sources familiar with the situation. A source told Reuters that Chubais left for ties with international organizations.