American President Joe Biden announced sanctions against Russian banks and powerful Russian business leaders Tuesday. He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of breaking international law in what Biden called “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine."
The measures came after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk areas of eastern Ukraine as independent states earlier on Monday. Putin also ordered Russian troops to cross the border in what he called a “peacekeeping” mission.
In a short 9-minute address from the White House, Biden said Russian actions violated international law and required tough measures from the international community.
Biden announced that the United States will block businesses from two large Russian banks and enforce economic measures against Russian debts. “That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western finance,” he said. “It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”
Other measures included sanctions against Russian leaders and their families. The 27 member states of the European Union also agreed to set their own sanctions targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine.
The U.S. announcement came after Germany suspended the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. The U.S. and Western allies have long opposed the project, warning that it would increase Russian influence in Europe.
The strong new measures, Biden said, were “far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014. And if Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions.”
The U.S. and Western allies announced limited economic measures against Russia after its takeover of Crimea, a Ukrainian territory on the Black Sea.
Western troops on alert
President Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. will send additional troops and military equipment to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the neighboring Baltic area.
Biden noted, “We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message though: that the United States together with our allies will defend every inch of NATO territory. And abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday that Russia “has now moved from covert attempts to destabilize Ukraine to overt military action.”
He added NATO allies have more than 100 jet planes on high alert and more than 120 warships ready at sea from the high north to the Mediterranean Sea.
Since November, the U.S. and NATO allies have warned about the deployment of more than 150,000 Russian troops around Ukraine.
In their meeting over video last December, Biden told Putin of "strong economic and other measures" as punishment should Russia start a military conflict against Ukraine.
To end the crisis, Putin has called for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia. The Russian leader has asked for Ukraine to remain “neutral” and end possible NATO membership. And he wants the West to stop sending weapons to the country.
On Tuesday, Biden again met with the Ukrainian foreign minister “to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” U.S. officials said.
Back in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told his people, “We are not afraid of anyone or anything.” Protestors gathered outside the Russian Embassy in Kyiv with Ukrainian flags.
One held up a sign that read: “We choose Europe not Russia.”
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English with additional reporting from VOA, Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
sanction - n. an action taken to force a country to obey international law
implement - v. to begin to do something
commitment - n. a promise to do something
covert - adj. done in a way that is not easily seen or noticed
overt - adj. easily seen
destabilize - v. to cause something (like a government) unstable
alert - n. the state of being ready
sovereignty - n. a country's right to govern itself
integrity - n. the state of being complete or whole