Wednesday, February 23, 2022


Biden Announces Sanctions on Moscow, Says Russia’s Moves are ‘Beginning of Invasion’
President Biden on Tuesday announced new sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for what he called “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine” and ordered additional U.S. troops to NATO’s eastern flank, hours after members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside the country. Biden condemned Putin for his aggression against Ukraine, saying that the Russian action in the two separatist-held regions is “a flagrant violation of international law and demands a firm response from the international community.” Biden said the United States is imposing sanctions on two Russian banks: VEB, Russia’s fifth largest financial institution, and Promsvyazbank, which finance’s Russia’s military. He also announced sanctions on Russia’s foreign debt, and said Russia would be cut off from foreign financing. Biden added that the sanctions will extend to Russian oligarchs and their family members. More details are expected to be announced today on sanctions against those individuals. Biden also said the Kremlin will pay a “steeper” price if its troops move further into Ukraine. Later on Tuesday, Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, voted to allow friendship treaties between Russia and the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic, which could pave the way for Moscow to build military bases there, adopt a joint defense posture, and tighten economic integration.

The European Union said on Tuesday that the 351 members of Russia’s parliament who voted to recognize the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics would face financial penalties, in addition to 27 individuals and entities that the EU accused of undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty. The UK announced sanctions against five Russian banks and three Russian oligarchs with close ties to Putin. The UK also said it would create legislation to ensure that no British individual or company could do business with the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic. It currently has five Russian banks and three oligarchs on its sanctions list. The U.S. has reportedly received assurances from Australia, Canada, Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan that they will support sanctions and export control packages against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. ​​Late on Tuesday, Japan announced sanctions against Russia that include prohibiting the issuance of Russian bonds in Japan, freezing the assets of certain Russian individuals, and restricting the travel of certain individuals to Japan.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday canceled a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov due to “the further renewed Russian invasion of Ukraine” and subsequent “rejection” of diplomacy by Russia, but said that the U.S. would continue to pursue diplomacy. Separately, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that plans for a meeting between President Biden and Putin are off the table for the time being unless Russia de-escalates the situation in Ukraine by pulling back troops. Deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said earlier in the day that Russia’s forces had begun to move into Ukraine, declaring that “an invasion is an invasion, and that is what is underway.” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a news briefing that “this is the most dangerous moment in European security for a generation.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world is facing “the biggest global peace and security crisis in recent years.”

Today, Ukraine warned its citizens to avoid traveling to Russia and to leave the country immediately if they are already there. Ukraine’s parliament also approved sanctions on the 351 Russian lawmakers who voted to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk. Earlier, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that he was calling up the country’s military reservists. Zelensky emphasized that this was not a general mobilization and would affect only members of Ukraine’s “operational reserve.” Meanwhile, Moscow warned that the U.S. and its allies will fully feel the “consequences” of U.S. sanctions on Russia. A senior Russian official warned Tuesday that Germany, after suspending the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, would “very soon” be paying more than double for natural gas. For his part, Putin said on Wednesday that Russia was always open to diplomacy but put its own national security interests first and would continue to strengthen its military in the face of what he called a difficult international situation. Associated Press, Reuters, The Hill, New York Times, BBC, Foreign Policy, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post
Reuters: Ukraine MPs Vote to Give Permission for Civilians to Carry Firearms
Politico: Lawmakers Call on Biden to Ask Congress Before Sending Troops to Ukraine
Defense One: ​​Above Ukraine, a Cold War Spy Plane Is Finally Tracking a Russian Invasion
New York Times: Europe Prepares for the Arrival of Ukrainian Refugees as Aid Groups Warn of a Crisis
The Hill: Romania Prepared to Accept 500,000 Ukrainian Refugees, Official Says