WASHINGTON – The United States and its allies on Tuesday quickly imposed economic sanctions on Russia for what President Biden denounced as the start of an “invasion of Ukraine,” given a series of coordinated sanctions as Western officials confirm that Russian forces have begun crossing Ukraine’s border.
Speaking from the White House, Mr. Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir V. Putin and said the immediate consequences for his aggression against Ukraine included the loss of a vital natural gas pipeline and the cutting of it. source of global financing for two Russian banks and some of the country’s elites.
“Who does Putin think in the name of God give him the right to declare a so-called new state on the territory belonging to his neighbours?” Mr. Biden said Tuesday afternoon, joining a barrage of criticism from global leaders earlier in the day. “This is a clear violation of international law and demands a resolute response from the international community.”
Biden warned Putin that more sanctions would be imposed if the Russian leader did not withdraw his forces and engage in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis.
But that outlook remained dim later in the day, when Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken canceled plans to meet with Russia’s foreign minister on Thursday, saying it was not “reasonable” to hold talks while the forces Russia is on the move.
“Simply put, Russia just announced that it’s chipping away at a large portion of Ukraine’s territory, and added, ‘He’s setting up a pretext to take more territory by force,'” Biden said. ”
According to NATO, European Union and White House officials, the global response began early on Tuesday, just hours after Putin recognized the self-declared breakaway states in eastern Ukraine and its forces. Russian forces began to pour into their territory. This is the first major deployment of Russian troops across internationally recognized borders since the current crisis began.
At a news conference in Moscow, Putin said he had not decided to send troops “right now”. But officials say the invasion began overnight, hours before Putin’s parliament formally granted him the right to deploy troops abroad. Ukrainians near territory controlled by Kremlin-backed separatists have endured days of shelling, and as Ukrainian troops duck into trenches and civilians take shelter in basements, the military says So far, one soldier has been killed and six wounded.
Financial markets around the world wobbled on Tuesday to Russian actions and responses from Western governments. In the United States, the news pushed stocks lower, sending the S&P 500 index into correction territory, 10% below its January peak. Oil prices, which rose to nearly $100 per barrel in anticipation of global disruption, pegged at $96.84 per barrel, up 1.5%.
Mr. Biden and his counterparts in Germany, the UK and other European countries described the global sanctions package as severe. These include US financial directives to deny Russia the ability to borrow money in Western markets and to block financial transactions by two banks and the families of three wealthy Russian classes.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pause the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. The $11 billion pipeline from Russia to Germany – completed but not yet operational – is crucial to Moscow’s plans to increase energy sales to Europe. Foreign Minister of the European Union and the British government passed sanctions against lawmakers in Moscow who voted to authorize the use of force, as well as Russian elites, companies and institutions.
“It will hurt a lot,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell Fontelles.
However, moves in Washington and other world capitals are limited in scope and do not involve the broader economic war that some – including members of Congress and supporters Ukraine – has repeatedly asked in recent weeks.
Mr. Biden and his counterparts said they must balance the need to take swift and stern action with maintaining the ability to impose larger sanctions on Russia should Putin escalate the conflict. trying to take more territory that the separatists claim, or even an entire country – a war that could kill tens of thousands of people.
“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” he said, adding that “we will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates”.
European leaders have also vowed to get tougher if Putin’s forces continue to advance. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the UK sanctions as just a “first wave”.
Mr. Biden’s use of the word “aggression” is significant. In the past, he angered Ukraine’s leadership by suggesting that there could be lighter penalties for a “minor infraction”. Now that Putin has sent forces into eastern Ukraine, Mr. Biden, in his choice of words, is making it clear that there is nothing petty about the operation.
But that leaves open the question of how to tailor sanctions – because so far there have been no mass casualties. Jonathan Finer, the president’s deputy national security adviser, said early Tuesday that the administration could exercise restraint. some of its promised punishment In the hope of deterrence, Mr. Putin’s further aggressive action is aimed at the rest of the country.
“We’ve always envisioned waves of sanctions that will unfold over time in response to the steps Russia has taken, not just the statements it makes,” Finer told CNN. “We have always said that we will monitor the situation on the ground and have a quick and stern response.”
Crucially, it remains unclear how far Mr Putin – who once described Ukraine as a phony state, far from Russia – is prepared to go. On Tuesday, he said ominously that he recognized the so-called sovereignty of the republics of Donetsk and Luhansk over not only the land they control, but also much larger parts of Ukraine that they claim. sovereignty, home to 2.5 million people.
At a so-called hasty press conference on Tuesday, Putin asked Ukraine to swear never to join NATO, give up the advanced weapons the West has given it, recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea. and negotiate directly with the Luhansk and Donetsk separatists, who are seen in Kyiv and Western capitals as illegitimate Kremlin proxies.
“The most important point is that the extent of Ukraine’s demilitarization today is known,” Putin said. “This is the only objective, controllable factor that can be observed and reacted to.”
Russia’s deputy defense minister, Nikolai Pankov, announced that Ukraine has gathered 60,000 troops to attack Russian-backed separatist enclaves in the east of the country – a step Ukraine denies having any plans to take. . Mr. Pankov’s comments offer little evidence that a peaceful end to the conflict between the two countries is in sight.
Understanding how the Ukraine crisis developed
“Negotiations have reached a dead end,” he said in a televised address. “Ukrainian leadership has followed the path of violence and bloodshed.”
Biden’s announcement of new sanctions was equally grim. He said that the United States was imposing a “complete blockade” on two major Russian financial institutions and “comprehensive sanctions” on Russian debt.
“That means we have cut off the Russian government from Western finance,” he said. “It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade its new debt on our market or the European market.”
He also said that the United States would impose sanctions on Russian elites and their families, an effort to ensure that those closest to Putin do not escape the financial pain given to them. would have a devastating effect on ordinary Russian citizens.
Daleep Singh, deputy national security adviser, called the sanctions announced Tuesday “just the edge of the pain we can inflict”.
Mr. Singh described the two banks as “the glorified piggy bank of the Kremlin” and as financiers “for Russian military operations”. Banks will be banned from conducting transactions in the United States or Europe, and their assets in the United States will be frozen.
Mr Singh said sanctions against Russian elites and their families would punish those who “shared the Kremlin’s corrupt interests, and now they will share in the pain”.
American officials have for weeks worried that imposing harsh sanctions on Russia could also have consequences for the United States, including higher gas prices. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said that Americans should prepare for such a conflict with Russia.
Asked about Biden’s proposed summit with Putin, Psaki said the administration remained open to diplomacy. “It’s still an option,” she said of a potential meeting, but only if Russia de-escalates hostilities with Ukraine.
By the end of the day in eastern Ukraine, there was no immediate sign of a major military escalation, but frightened Ukrainians boarded buses leaving the breakaway regions as the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, urged its nation to “keep a cool head” during the crisis.
Mr. Zelensky insisted that Ukraine would not give in to territory and that his Defense Minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, appeared to be sending his country’s army into the war.
“Ahead will be a difficult test,” Reznikov said in a sad message released by the army. “There will be losses. You will have to go through the pain and overcome the fear and despair.”
Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report from Washington, Richard Pérez-Peña from New York and Anton Troianovski from Moscow.