Ukraine crisis: Biden announces sanctions against Russia

Blinken said that further renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine that has now begun means clearly that the idea of having a meeting this week with Foreign Minister Lavrov does not make sense.

US Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday cancelled his scheduled meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov later this week in protest against what he said was the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who jointly addressed a news conference with Blinken at the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the State Department, said that the world must respond with all its economic might to punish Russia for the crimes it has already committed and ahead of the crimes it plans to commit.

“Hit Russia’s economy now and hit it hard,” he said.

He also ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission in the Moscow-backed regions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed decrees to recognize Ukraine’s regions of “Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics” as “independent”, escalating the tension in the region and increasing fears of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Responding to questions, Blinken said that further renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine that has now begun means clearly that the idea of having a meeting this week with Foreign Minister Lavrov to pursue diplomacy, now rejected by Russia, does not make sense.

The two leaders were scheduled to meet in Europe on February 24.

“But having said that, to the extent there is anything that we can do to avert an even worst-case scenario, an all-out assault on all of Ukraine including its capital, that would inflict horrific costs on the Ukrainian people, we will always pursue that,” the secretary of state said, noting that the US and its allies remain open to diplomacy, but Moscow needs to demonstrate that it’s serious.

Blinken alleged that Putin has all along planned to invade Ukraine, to control Ukraine and its people, to destroy Ukraine’s democracy, which offers a stark contrast to the autocracy that he leads, to reclaim Ukraine as a part of Russia.

“That’s why this is the greatest threat to security in Europe since World War II. Ukraine is in danger.”

“President Putin is blatantly and violently breaking the laws and principles that have kept the peace across Europe and around the world for decades. Yesterday at an emergency session of the UN Security Council requested by Ukraine, the United States and many other countries condemned Russia’s renewed attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity as a violation of international law and the United Nations Charter,” Blinken said.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Kuleba said that the entire world stands today with Ukraine.

“Putin wants much more than a war-torn piece of Ukrainian land and people living there. What stops him is only our unity and resolve, and we can still stop him. Ukraine continues the engagement with the United States, EU, and NATO in diplomatic efforts to ease tensions,” he said.

Kuleba called for sustained pressure on Russia.

“If that involves regular issuance of executive orders or new sanctions, we will be more than happy to see that,” Kuleba added.

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a series of economic sanctions against Russia as he accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of aggression against Ukraine.

Biden, announcing America’s first tranche of economic sanctions against Russia, told reporters at the White House that “there’s no question that Russia is the aggressor. So, we’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facing”.

He said that a day earlier, Putin recognised two regions of Ukraine as independent states.

Putin bizarrely asserted that these regions are no longer part of Ukraine and their sovereign territory.

To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine, Biden said.

“Last night, Putin authorised Russian forces to deploy into these regions. Today, he asserted that these regions actually, extend deeper than the two areas he recognised, claiming large areas currently under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian government.”

“He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force in my view. And if we listen to his speech last night, he’s setting up a rationale to go much further. This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as he indicated and asked permission to be able to do from his duma,” the US President said.

Biden said that these sanctions have been closely coordinated with America’s allies and partners and will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates.

“We’re implementing full-blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions, VEB and their military bank. We’re implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing. It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”

“Starting tomorrow and continuing in the days ahead, we’ll also impose sanctions on Russia’s elites and their family members. They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well. Because of Russia’s actions, we work with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 will not, as I promised, will not move forward,” Biden said.

“As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well,” he said.

Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions, he warned.

Biden said that in response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, he has authorised additional movements of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen its Baltic allies: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

“We still believe that Russia is poised to go much further in launching a massive military attack against Ukraine. Hope I’m wrong about that, hope we’re wrong about that, but Russia has only escalated its threat against the rest of Ukrainian territory, including major cities and including the capital city of Kyiv. There are still well over 150,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine,” Biden added.

“Let me be clear: These are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the United States, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”

Ukraine’s president on Tuesday night announced he was calling up some of the country’s military reservists as the threat of a Russian invasion grew, but he added there was no need for a full military mobilisation.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address to the nation his decree applies only to those assigned to the so-called operational reserve, which is typically activated during ongoing hostilities, and covers “a special period of time,” without clarifying what that means.

He said: “Today there is no need for a full mobilisation. We need to quickly add additional staff to the Ukrainian army and other military formations.”

There are about 250,000 troops in Ukraine’s armed forces, and some 140,000 reservists.


Arab Observer

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