Washington DC – In coordination with his allies, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced sanctions against financial institutions, debt and members of Russia’s oligarchy, claiming that Vladimir Putin’s government has begun the invasion of Ukraine and it directly attacks that country’s right to exist.
“(Russia) is establishing a logic to go much further. This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Biden said, emphasizing that this is a flagrant violation of international law.
On Tuesday, the Russian upper house – the Federation Council – authorized President Putin’s determination to send troops to the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, which the Russian president has recognized as independent republics.RELATED
“Simply put, Russia has just announced that a large part of Ukraine is being cut off,” Biden said in his message, warning that the United States “will go further” if President Putin decides to escalate the crisis.
The sanctions include the VEB and PSB banks, the latter fundamental for the Russian military sector. “They will not be able to have transactions with Europe and the United States,” said a senior Biden administration official, who stated that they could sanction other banks later, but noted that between the two institutions they have assets that reach $85 billion.
The penalties will prevent Russia from raising money for its debt in the United States and Europe.
“That means that we have isolated the government of Russia from Western finance… It cannot raise money from the West and it cannot negotiate its new debt in our markets or in the European markets,” said Biden, who considers that although it is a “ first batch” of sanctions, are the toughest since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.
The sanctions against the Russian elite include the freezing of assets of Denis Bortnikov, whose father, Aleksandr Bortnikov, is the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation and a permanent member of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Against Alexksandr sanctions already prevailed.
The assets of Petr Fradkok, chairman and CEO of PSB bank, are also frozen, as was done in 2021 with his father, former Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkok. A third target is Sergeevich Kiriyenko, son of Sergei Vladilenovich Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Office.
The United States maintained that its actions have been coordinated with the European Union, Great Britain, Australia, Japan and Canada. The Biden administration highlighted, above all, Germany’s announcement to suspend the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which represents an investment of $11 billion for the Russian government.
President Biden stated that when Putin recognized Donetsk and Lugansk – home to some seven million people – as independent republics, and argued that Ukraine “has never had its own authentic sovereignty”, the Russian president “has attacked Ukraine’s right to exist”.
The Donbas region – which includes Donetsk and Luhansk – has been divided since 2014 between areas controlled by the Kiev government and Russian separatists. Russian-backed separatists are estimated to control a third of the territory, which comprises about 50,000 square kilometers. Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union.
Biden met today with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. He also authorized the transfer of US troops and equipment from Europe to support Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He has made it clear that he will not send troops to Ukraine, which is not part of NATO.
“Russia’s actions undermine peaceful efforts and destroy existing negotiating efforts. With its decisions, Russia is legalizing its troops, which have actually been in the occupied areas of Donbas since 2014,” Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said.
Early on Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany will suspend the process to certify the operation of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, of high interest to Russia and the main Russian supplier of natural gas. Gazprom.
The European Union has also prepared sanctions against Russia. In Britain, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled sanctions that involve freezing the assets of five Russian banks and three oligarchs.
Putin has wanted to describe the sending of Russian troops to the area of eastern Ukraine known as Donbas, and where a civil war between Ukrainian troops and Russian separatists, has been waged in practice as a “pacifist” mission. He has insisted that he fears the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) wants to expand into Ukraine, contrary to commitments made three decades ago.
Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) has called for “the toughest sanctions possible.”
“China, Iran and North Korea are watching. They must see us respond firmly to this Russian aggression”, indicated, for its part, the leadership of the House Republican minority, headed by Kevin McCarthy (California).
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Robert Menéndez (New Jersey), stated that “if more Russian troops or delegated forces cross Donbas, the Biden administration and our European allies should not hesitate to impose crushing sanctions. There must be tangible, far-reaching and substantial costs to Russia in response to this unwarranted act.”
For his part, independent Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) argued that “Vladimir Putin’s latest invasion of Ukraine is an indefensible violation of international law, regardless of the false pretext it offers.” Sanders urged countries neighboring Ukraine to prepare “for the worst case scenario” and assist Ukrainian refugees.