Allies join U.S. in imposing sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine
The president called Russia's recognition of two Ukrainian regions a "flagrant violation of international law" and announced sanctions targeting Russia's ability to do business with the West.
Updated February 22, 2022 at 3:26 PM ET
Russia's decision to order troops into parts of eastern Ukraine is "the beginning of a Russian invasion," President Biden said Tuesday as he announced a new set of sweeping sanctions targeting Russia's ability to do business with the West.
The moves by Russia have triggered punishments from the U.S., the U.K. and the European Union, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Monday recognizing two regions in Ukraine as independent.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden called Putin's decree a "flagrant violation of international law."
"We still believe that Russia is poised to go much further in launching a massive military attack against Ukraine," Biden said. He cited the positions of Russian forces and the recent movement of blood and critical military supplies nearer to the border with Ukraine as indications that an invasion could happen "in the days ahead."
Western governments have raised concerns about Russia expanding the force and scope of their operations under the guise of a humanitarian mission. The Kremlin has routinely — and falsely — compared the plight of Russian speakers in these areas to genocide.
"None of us should be fooled. None of us will be fooled. There is no justification," Biden said.
"Russia's aggression against Ukraine is illegal and unacceptable," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said via Twitter. She added that the EU is "united in its support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
Despite the grave warnings, Biden said that the U.S. is still open to diplomacy. "There is still time to avert the worst-case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people," he said.
Here's a rundown of where things currently stand:
The U.S. is calling this an invasion and enacting sanctions
For months, the U.S. and its allies have promised to enact severe sanctions on Russia should it choose to invade Ukraine. On Tuesday, Biden said the moment has come: "Russia has now undeniably moved against Ukraine," he said.
The sanctions announced Tuesday will hit two major Russian financial institutions along with the Russian government's ability to access Western financing. Additional sanctions in the coming days will target Russian elites and their families, Biden said.
Biden described the sanctions as a "first tranche," and he warned that the U.S. had prepared further consequences if Putin does not withdraw the troops.
"As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well. Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression," Biden said.
Biden also said he had authorized additional movements of U.S. troops already stationed in Europe to "strengthen" NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the three Baltic nations that border Russia. Latvia and Lithuania also share borders with Belarus, where some 30,000 Russian troops are currently stationed.
"These are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia," Biden said.
Russia gives Putin the formal OK to send military beyond borders
Russia's Federation Council formally granted Putin the power to deploy forces outside the country's borders — a move the country's upper chamber linked to the deployment of what the Kremlin described as "peacekeepers" to Donetsk and Luhansk.
The council approved a resolution backing Putin's plan to deploy Russian forces shortly after it unanimously ratified two quickly arranged treaties Tuesday between Russia and the two breakaway regions.
The lawmakers' approval gives Putin further legislative cover to possibly expand the Russian military's action beyond the two so-called "independent" republics in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.
The U.K. puts sanctions on five Russian banks and three people
"Today, the U.K. is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank. And we are sanctioning three very high net worth individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the House of Commons.
"Any assets they hold in the U.K. will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from traveling here, and we will prohibit all U.K. individuals and entities from having any dealings with them," the prime minister added. More sanctions are ready to be deployed, he said.
Johnson deemed the rationale Putin presented for acting against Ukraine in a long speech on Monday "absurd and even mystical reasons" for an international crisis.
"We will not allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and might is right," Johnson said. "And it is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin's venture in Ukraine must fail."
Germany halts Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline
One of the main bargaining chips in the dispute over Ukraine and NATO is the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is slated to bring Russian natural gas into Germany. The new service is set to start operations later this year — but after Putin's action, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered his government to halt certification of the pipeline.
"These are difficult hours for Europe," Scholz said, according to a translation posted by Bloomberg News. "Almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War, we might see a new war in Eastern Europe. It is our task to avert such a disaster, and I call on Russia to contribute their fair share."
Germany is now looking at other ways to satisfy its energy demands, Scholz said.
If it becomes operational, Nord Stream 2 would transport natural gas from Russia directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The $11 billion pipeline would have an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom is the project's sole shareholder.
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