Joe Biden announced the first wave of US sanctions against Russia in retaliation for Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.
the The American President said the sanctions would be imposed on Russian banks, oligarchs and the country’s sovereign debt.
He told reporters that Russian troops had been ordered to move east Ukraine after Vladimir Poutine recognized the independence of two separatist regions marked the “beginning of an invasion”.
Mr Biden said his Russian counterpart was “setting up a justification to take more territory by force” and he warned that Moscow would “pay an even higher price if it continued its aggression”.
The US Commander-in-Chief also said he had authorized the movement of additional forces and equipment to reinforce NATO allies Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Main developments in Ukraine:
- 800 American servicemen will be moved from Italy to the Baltic region
- Up to eight US F35 aircraft have been moved from Germany to sites along NATO’s eastern flank
- Ukrainian president calls for reservists but rules out general mobilization
- UK targets five Russian banks and three oligarchs with sanctions
- EU sanctions Russian MPs who voted in favor of recognition
- Germany suspends approval of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline
Mr Biden said: “I will begin to impose sanctions in response, well beyond the measures that we, our allies and partners implemented in 2014.”
The latest sanctions target Russia’s VEB bank and the country’s military bank, Promsvyazbank, which handles defense affairs.
Read more: How do the Russian and Ukrainian military compare?
The sanctions are also applied to Russia’s sovereign debt.
“We have cut off the Russian government from Western funding. It can no longer raise money from the West,” he told reporters at the White House.
He said it was just the “first tranche” of what the United States and its allies were prepared to put in place if Russia launched a larger invasion, with around 150,000 Russian troops massed in the borders of Ukraine.
Mr Biden also said that starting Wednesday he would impose sanctions on Russian oligarchs and their families.
Read more: What is NATO’s position in Eastern Europe?
Meanwhile, an infantry battalion task force of 800 U.S. military personnel will travel to the Baltic region from Italy.
In addition, up to eight F-35 fighter jets will be moved from Germany to sites along NATO’s eastern flank, 20 Apache helicopters will be deployed to the Baltic region from Germany and 12 Apache helicopters will will head to Poland from Greece.
“We will defend every square inch of NATO territory,” he said, adding, “We have no intention of fighting Russia.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said America and its allies will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia further escalates its aggression against Ukraine.
He told reporters: “Now he knows that Putin’s plan has always been to invade Ukraine.”
Mr. Blinken has canceled a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, scheduled for Thursday in Geneva.
The head of US diplomacy said: “Now that we see the invasion beginning and Russia has made clear its total rejection of diplomacy, it doesn’t make sense to move forward with this meeting. for the moment.”
The most striking line in President Biden’s speech was pointedly directed at the man who caused it all.
“Who in the name of the Lord,” Mr. Biden asked, “according to Putin, who gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belongs to his neighbors?”
The window on diplomacy, President Biden said, was still open, but White House rhetoric has understandably hardened in light of Russia’s actions over the past 24 hours.
He called Russia’s dispatch of so-called “peacekeeping” troops to rebel-held areas of Ukraine the “start of an invasion”.
As such, President Biden said the United States would impose the “start of sanctions”.
The Biden administrations’ tactic here is to roll out sanctions in waves, to leave the US somewhere to graduate, leaving tougher sanctions in its back pocket if Russia launches a full-scale invasion.
Read more: Who are the main players in the Ukrainian crisis?
In a rapidly evolving crisis, Russian lawmakers previously allowed President Putin to use the armed forces abroadwith the move a possible sign towards a broader attack on Ukraine.
Moscow on Monday recognized the independence of the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, where government troops fought Russian-backed rebels.
The Kremlin upped the ante again on Tuesday, saying recognition extended to large shares held by Ukrainian forces.
Mr Putin has set three conditions for getting out of the crisis. He called for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, an end to Ukraine’s bid for NATO membership and a halt to arms shipments to the country.
The West condemned the 2014 annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and rejected Ukraine’s permanent ban on joining NATO.
Earlier on Tuesday, Boris Johnson said the UK sanctioned five Russian banks and three oligarchsfreezing their assets in the UK and banning travel to Britain.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that this was the “first tranche” and “first barrage” of measures, in response to the movement of Russian troops in two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine .
One of the private banks was Bank Rossiya, based in St. Petersburg, and the UK government mistakenly listed its address as Neglinnaya, 12, Moscow, 107016, Russia – which is the address of Russia’s central bank, known in Russian as Bank Rossiya.
The Foreign Office then issued an update to make “administrative corrections to two listings under Russia’s sanctions regime” which gave the bank’s correct address.
The EU also issued sanctions targeting 351 Russian politicians who voted to recognize breakaway regions, as well as 27 other Russian defense and banking officials and institutions.
They have also sought to limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets.