Biden sanctions Russian oligarchs and banks in Ukraine crisis – Daily Local

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, YURAS KARMANAU, AAMER MADHANI and ERIC TUCKER

MOSCOW (AP) — The East-West confrontation over Ukraine escalated dramatically on Tuesday, with Russian lawmakers allowing President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside his country and U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders Europeans reacted by imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs and banks.

Both leaders have signaled that an even bigger showdown could occur. Putin has yet to unleash the force of 150,000 soldiers massed on three sides of Ukraine, while Biden has held back on the toughest sanctions that could cause economic turmoil for Russia, but said that they would continue if there were further attacks.

The moves, along with the repositioning of additional US troops in the Baltics on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia, came as Russian forces pushed into rebel-held areas in eastern Russia. Ukraine after Putin declared he recognized the independence of the breakaway region in defiance of US and European demands.

Speaking at the White House, Biden said the Kremlin had flagrantly violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.” He warned of further sanctions if Putin went further.

“We are united in our support for Ukraine,” Biden said. “We are united in our opposition to Russian aggression.” Regarding Russian claims of a justification or pretext for an invasion, Biden said, “None of us should be fooled. None of us will be fooled. There is no justification.

Hopes for a diplomatic solution to the threat of invasion, which US officials have described for weeks as almost inevitable, seemed to evaporate. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled plans for a Thursday meeting in Geneva with his Russian counterpart, saying it would not be productive and that Russia’s actions indicated Moscow was not serious about a peaceful way to resolve the crisis.

Western nations have sought to present a united front, with more than two dozen members of the European Union unanimously agreeing to impose their own initial set of sanctions against Russian officials. Germany also said it was suspending the certification process for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia – a lucrative deal long sought by Moscow but criticized by the United States for increasing Europe’s dependence on energy Russian.

The United States, meanwhile, decided to cut off the Russian government from Western finance, sanctioning two of its banks and preventing it from trading its debt on the American and European markets. The administration’s actions have hit civilian leaders in the Russian leadership hierarchy and two Russian banks seen as particularly close to the Kremlin and the Russian military, with more than $80 billion in assets. This includes the freezing of all assets of these banks under US jurisdiction.

Biden, however, withheld some of the broadest and harshest financial sanctions being considered by the United States, including sanctions that would tighten Germany’s grip on any Nord Stream 2 pipeline startup; an export ban that would deprive Russia of high American technology for its industries and military; and sweeping bans that could cripple Russia’s ability to do business with the rest of the world.

Biden said he was moving additional US troops into the Baltics, although he described the actions as purely “defensive”, saying, “We have no intention of fighting Russia.” The United States is sending about 800 infantry and 40 strike aircraft to the Baltics and NATO’s eastern flank from other places in Europe, according to a senior defense official. In addition, a contingent of F-35 fighter jets and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters will also be moved.

Earlier on Tuesday, members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Putin to use military force outside the country – formalizing a Russian military deployment in the country. rebel regions, where an eight-year conflict has killed nearly 14,000 people.

Shortly thereafter, Putin laid down three conditions to end the crisis that threatened to plunge Europe back into war, raising the specter of mass casualties, continent-wide energy shortages and global economic chaos.

Putin said the crisis could be resolved if Kiev recognizes Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, drops its NATO bid and partially demilitarizes. . The West has denounced the annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and has previously categorically rejected Ukraine’s permanent exclusion from NATO.

When asked if he had sent Russian troops to Ukraine and how far they could go, Putin replied: “I didn’t say the troops would go there now.” He added that “it is impossible to predict a specific course of action – it will depend on a concrete situation as it unfolds on the ground.”

The EU announced initial sanctions targeting the 351 Russian lawmakers who voted to recognize breakaway regions in Ukraine, as well as 27 other Russian officials and institutions in the defense and banking sectors. They have also sought to limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets.

With tensions rising and a wider conflict looking more likely, the White House has begun to refer to Russian deployments in the region known as Donbass as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term – a red line which Biden said would result in severe penalties.

“We believe this is, yes, the start of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine,” Jon Finer, senior deputy national security adviser, told CNN. “An invasion is an invasion, and that’s what’s going on.”

The White House on Monday night announced limited sanctions targeting the rebel region shortly after Putin said he was sending troops to eastern Ukraine. A senior Biden administration official, who briefed reporters on the sanctions targeting the separatist region, noted “that Russia has occupied these areas since 2014” and that “Russian troops moving into Donbass would not in itself be a new step”.

Western leaders have long warned that Moscow would seek cover to invade – and such a pretext seemed to come on Monday, when Putin recognized as independent two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, where government troops fought rebels supported by Russia. The Kremlin then upped the ante by declaring that recognition extended even to large parts now held by Ukrainian forces.

Putin said Russia had recognized the independence of the rebel regions within the borders that existed when they made their declaration in 2014 – vast territories that stretch far beyond the areas currently under separatist control and which include the main port of the Sea of ​​Azov, Mariupol. He added, however, that the rebels would eventually have to negotiate with Ukraine.

Condemnation from around the world was swift. In Washington, lawmakers from both parties in Congress backed an independent Ukraine and pledged continued US support, even as some called for faster and even harsher sanctions against Russia. The senators had considered a set of sanctions against Putin’s regime, but waited for the White House to pursue its strategy.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he will consider severing diplomatic ties with Russia and Kiev has recalled its ambassador to Moscow.

If Putin pushes further in Ukraine, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has insisted the West will move forward together. “If Russia once again decides to use force against Ukraine, there will be even stronger sanctions, even a higher price to pay,” he said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will impose sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals. He warned that a full-scale offensive would bring “powerful new sanctions”.

Zelenskyy said he was calling up some of the country’s military reservists, but added that a full military mobilization was not necessary.

In an address to the nation, Zelenskyy said his decree only applied to those assigned to the so-called operational reserve, which is usually activated during ongoing hostilities and covers “a special period”, without specifying what that this means.

“Today, there is no need for total mobilization. We must quickly add additional personnel to the Ukrainian army and other military formations,” he said. National Security and Defense Council Oleksii Danilov said earlier this year that Ukraine could call up to 2.5 million people.

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Karmanau reported from Kiev, Ukraine. Madhani and Tucker reported from Washington. Jill Lawless in London; Lorne Cook in Brussels; Barry Hatton in Lisbon, Portugal; Dasha Litvinova in Moscow; Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Ellen Knickmeyer, Robert Burns, Matthew Lee, Zeke Miller, Chris Megerian and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

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This story has been updated to correct that Mariupol is on the Sea of ​​Azov, not the Black Sea.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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