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Vladimir the corrupt: Up the sanctions against Putin

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Reaping tens of billions of illicit real estate, energy and kickback dollars for himself and his cronies, Russian President Vladimir Putin proves why “corrupt” almost always precedes “autocrat.”

U.S. officials speaking anonymously estimate the illicit haul has totaled at least $28 billion since the late 1990s. They tell The Washington Free Beacon that Mr. Putin alone has acquired 20 residences, 58 aircraft and four yachts since the early 2000s.

Also benefiting are fellow ex-KGB and intelligence figures who stole $25 billion to $30 billion just from Sochi Winter Olympics construction accounts. And Putin apparently uses Gazprom, which he controls, and other oil and gas firms like personal ATMs, skimming billions of dollars in cash.

Limited U.S. financial sanctions, prompted by Putin's outrageous annexation of Crimea and continuing threat to Ukraine, target 16 of his corrupt cronies, including one who has helped Putin obtain oil-generated cash, and the heads of state-owned Russian Railways and a Gazprom subsidiary. Also sanctioned are Bank Rossiya, which Russia's corruptocracy uses to launder illicit money and conduct deals, and its largest shareholder, aka Putin's personal banker.

Laudable as they might be, these sanctions fall far short of matching the staggering scope of Russia's corruption. Forcing a course change by Putin & Co. requires inflicting far more financial pain — through far tougher, broader sanctions taken not just by America but by its allies, too.

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