Biden says Russia’s military moves are the start of an invasion of Ukraine
Updated February 22, 2022 6:35 PM ET
Russia’s decision to send troops into parts of eastern Ukraine is “the start of a Russian invasion”, President Biden said on Tuesday as he announced a new round of sweeping sanctions targeting the ability to Russia to do business with the West.
The US sanctions are in addition to those announced earlier by the United Kingdom and the European Union in joint response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree on Monday recognizing two regions of Ukraine as independent.
Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden called Putin’s executive order a “flagrant violation of international law.”
“We still think Russia is about to go much further by launching a massive military attack on Ukraine,” Biden said. He cited the positions of Russian forces and the recent movement of blood and essential military supplies closer to the border with Ukraine as indications that an invasion could occur “in the days to come”.
Western governments have raised concerns about Russia expanding the force and scope of its operations under the guise of a humanitarian mission. The Kremlin has regularly – and wrongly – compared the plight of Russian speakers in these regions 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,” said 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”.
Even as Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled an upcoming meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Biden said the United States remains open to diplomacy. “There is still time to avoid the worst-case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people,” he said.
Here is an overview of the state of affairs:
The United States calls it an invasion and imposes sanctions
For months, the United States and its allies have promised to impose tough sanctions on Russia if it chooses to invade Ukraine. On Tuesday, Biden said the time had come. “Russia has now undeniably acted against Ukraine,” he said.
Sanctions announced on Tuesday will hit two major Russian financial institutions as well as the Russian government’s ability to access Western funding. Additional sanctions in the coming days will target Russian elites and their families, Biden said.
Biden described the sanctions as a “first installment” and he warned that the United States had prepared other consequences if Putin did not withdraw the troops.
“As Russia considers its next move, we are also planning our next move. Russia will pay an even greater price if it continues its aggression,” Biden said.
Other measures could include sanctions against other Russian banks, as well as export controls on strategic products like semiconductors, said Daleep Singh, White House deputy national security adviser.
The two state-owned banks targeted by Tuesday’s sanctions – Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Promsvyazbank (PSB) – will be completely cut off from the US financial system.
The banks were chosen because of their links to Russian government activities. VEB manages Russia’s sovereign debt and funds major infrastructure and industrial projects in the country, while PSB funds the country’s Defense Ministry and nearly 70% of Russia’s defense contracts, according to the Department of US Treasury.
“Today’s actions, taken in coordination with our partners and allies, begin the process of dismantling the Kremlin’s financial network and its ability to fund destabilizing activities in Ukraine and around the world,” the secretary said. Treasury Janet Yellen in a statement.
Hundreds of American soldiers will move to the Baltic countries
Biden also said he had authorized additional movements of US troops already stationed in Europe to “reinforce” NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the three Baltic countries 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 Tuesday.
About 800 troops will be moved from Italy to the Baltic region, according to a senior Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The United States will also move up to eight F-35 fighter jets and 32 Apache helicopters to NATO’s Eastern Front in the Baltics and Poland.
About 70,000 American soldiers are permanently stationed in Europe. Another 7,000 have rotated on shorter deployments to Eastern Europe since 2014 as part of the US response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. In recent weeks, Biden has ordered the deployment of several thousand more from the United States to Europe, mostly to Poland, which shares a border with Ukraine.
Biden and other officials have repeatedly said that US forces will not be used to fight in Ukraine.
Russia gives Putin official permission to send troops across borders
Russia’s Federation Council formally granted Putin the power to deploy forces outside the country’s borders – a decision by the country’s upper house linked to the deployment of what the Kremlin has described as ‘peacekeepers’ in Donetsk and Luhansk.
The council approved a resolution backing Putin’s plan to deploy Russian forces soon after it unanimously ratified on Tuesday two quickly agreed treaties between Russia and the two breakaway territories in Ukraine’s Donbass region.
Already, the borders claimed by the separatists extend far beyond the areas actually under their control. The treaties could allow separatist leaders to request Russian military intervention in territory currently controlled by Ukrainian forces.
Now the The lawmakers’ approval gives Putin additional legislative cover to eventually expand Russian military action beyond Donetsk and Lugansk.
UK imposes sanctions on five Russian banks and three people
“Today the UK is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and Black Sea Bank. And we are sanctioning three very wealthy 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 UK will be frozen, those affected will be banned from traveling here and we will ban all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them,” the Prime Minister added. Other sanctions are ready to be rolled out, he said.
Johnson called Putin’s rationale for acting against Ukraine in a lengthy speech Monday “absurd and even mystical reasons” for an international crisis.
“We will not allow Putin to return our continent to a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and force is just,” Johnson said. “And it is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin’s adventure in Ukraine must fail.”
Germany shuts down Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline
One of the main bargaining chips in the dispute over Ukraine and NATO is the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is expected to bring Russian natural gas to Germany. The new service is due to start operations later this year – but after Putin’s action, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered his government to suspend certification of the pipeline.
“These are difficult times for Europe,” Scholz said, according to a translation published by Bloomberg News. “Nearly 80 years after the end of World War II, we could see another war in Eastern Europe. It is our duty to avert such a disaster, and I call on Russia to do its fair share .”
Germany is now looking for other ways to meet its energy needs, Scholz said.
If it became 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 energy giant, Gazprom, is the sole shareholder of the project.
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