- Biden announced sanctions that will hit the Russian economy after Putin started an invasion of Ukraine.
- Russia’s parliament gave Putin permission to use military force outside the country.
- German chancellor says the government will ‘reassess’ certification of Nord Stream 2.
President Joe Biden Tuesday said Russia’s actions in Ukraine will trigger massive sanctions, a response he has been threatening for weeks as President Vladimir Putin built up troops on Ukraine’s borders. In a speech from the White House, Biden said the Russian leader has committed “a flagrant violation of international law.”
Putin on Tuesday received authorization from lawmakers to use Russian troops outside of the country, a move he said was necessary to formalize the military’s deployment in two rebel regions of eastern Ukraine. Russia recognized those provinces as independent on Monday, and Putin ordered troops there to “maintain peace.”
Biden described this as the start of an invasion.
“Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said. “He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view. This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
And that served as the trigger for the U.S. to impose sanctions. Biden said Russia “will pay an even steeper price” if aggressions continue.
Here’s what you need to know about the crisis between Russia and Ukraine:
- The EU has implemented sanctions against Russia, including Duma members who voted to recognize independence of eastern Ukraine’s rebel republics.
- Secretary of State Antony Blinken cancels Thursday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov over invasion.
- Russian lawmakers have approved President Vladimir Putin’s request for permission to use Russian troops outside of the country.
- In a significant move, Germany will stop certification of the Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
- The UN Security Council met late Monday in an emergency session, with many members condemning the Kremlin’s actions.
►Russia-Ukraine explained:Inside the crisis as US calls Russian movements an invasion
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday ordered U.S. troops and aircraft to redeploy within Europe to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. The order, directed by Biden, followed what the president labeled Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine.
The moves involve an infantry battalion of about 800 troops from Italy to Baltic states, eight F-35 fighters from Germany to several locations along NATO’s eastern front, 20 Apache attack helicopters from German to Baltic states and 12 Apaches from Greece to Poland.
The moves are temporary, according to the Pentagon, which has 90,000 U.S. troops in Europe.
– Tom Vanden Brook
Blinken cancels Thursday meeting with Russian counterpart Lavrov
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will no longer meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week, saying Russia is rejecting diplomacy.
Blinken and Lavrov were set to meet on Feb. 24. Blinken said the meeting was only set to happen “if Russia did not invade Ukraine.”
“Now that we see the invasions beginning, and Russia has made clear its wholesale rejection of diplomacy, it does not make sense to go forward with that meeting at this time,” Blinken said during an afternoon news conference with Ukrainian Foreign Minster Dmytro Kuleba.
Blinken, however, said that the United States remains open to meeting with Russian officials only if Moscow demonstrates that it’s serious about engaging diplomatically.
“The last 24 hours has demonstrated just the opposite,” Blinken said. “If Moscow’s approach changes, we remain – I remain – pretty much prepared to engage.”
Kuleba said Ukraine is prepared to fight Russia if diplomacy fails fully.
“Plan A is to utilize every tool of diplomacy to deter Russia and prevent further escalation,” he said. “And if that fails, Plan B is to fight for every inch of our land.”
– Rebecca Morin
Biden vowed that his administration would seek to ensure that economic sanctions against Russia would not hurt the U.S economy and spike gas prices further.
“I’m going to take robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy, not ours,” Biden said. “We’re closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruption.”
The president pointed to ongoing coordination with oil suppliers.
Gas prices in the U.S. have soared over the past year amid inflation at a 40-year high.
– Joey Garrison
US: Sanctions ‘only the sharp edge’ of pain
A U.S. official described the raft of sanctions announced by Biden as “only the sharp edge of the pain we can inflict,” vowing that more severe economic penalties would be in store if Putin escalates the invasion of Ukraine further.
“This is the beginning of the invasion and this is the beginning of our response,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Daleep Singh.
Along with other western allies, the U.S. is fully blocking Russia’s fifth largest financial firm, holding $50 billion in assets, and a $35 million Russian bank that finances the activities of the Russian military.
The Biden administration cut off the Russian government, the Russian Central Bank and its sovereign wealth funds from U.S. financing. Sanctions also target a handful of “Russian elites” and their family members who “shared in the corrupt games of the Kremlin.”
The Russian oligarchs targeted are: Aleksandr Vasilievich Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation; Petr Mikhailovich Fradkov, chairman and CEO of PSB; and Sergei Vladilenovich Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of staff of the Presidential Office. The individuals targeted don’t include Putin, but the U.S. official said, “All options remain on the table.”
The sanctions are in addition to action Germany took to stop certification of the Russian-owned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a potentially crippling blow to Russia’s plans to link its natural gas supply with Europe.
Notably, Biden’ s sanctions do not include one of the most severe penalties contemplated: cutting Russia out of the SWIFT financial system, which shuffles money from bank to bank around the globe. The official said “it will remain an option that we can deploy depending on Russia’s next move.”
— Joey Garrison
Additional U.S. forces and military equipment already stationed in Europe will be redeployed to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Biden said Tuesday, after Russia confirmed it would not withdraw forces in Belarus.
During his address to the nation, Biden said shifting those resources was “totally defensive” move and not a signal that the U.S. is prepared to engage in combat with Russia.
“We have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said. “We want to send an unmistakable message though that the United States together with its allies will defend every inch of NATO territory.”
– Rick Rouan
Trump calls Putin’s move ‘genius’
During a podcast interview Tuesday, former president Donald Trump all but praised Putin, saying it was “genius” to simply declare a “big portion” of Ukraine as independent and to move in with “peacekeeping” forces.
“They’re gonna keep peace all right,” Trump told podcast hosts Clay Travis and Buck Sexton.
“No, but think of it. Here’s a guy who’s very savvy,” the former president said of the Russian leader. “I know him very well. Very, very well.”
– David Jackson
Some Republicans wasted no time in criticizing Biden’s new sanctions as too little, too late.
“President Biden promised a ‘swift and severe’ response. He did not deliver,” tweeted Nikki Haley, the United Nations ambassador during the Donald Trump administration.
She added: “The Chinese communists and Iranian jihadists are watching too. It’s a major leadership moment for Biden. So far, he’s failing.”
Trump himself sent out another written statement attacking Biden, just as he has throughout the Ukraine impasse.
“I know Vladimir Putin very well, and he would have never done during the Trump Administration what he is doing now, no way,” Trump said.
Biden, other Democrats and even some Republicans said Trump was way too friendly with the Russian leader, enabling him to gather strength for his current aggression.
– David Jackson
Biden said he would be announcing sanctions “far beyond the scope” of what was implemented in 2014 in response to Putin’s military actions in the Russian-backed eastern Ukraine regions of Donetsk and Luhansk..
Biden said the “first tranche” of sanctions would cut off Russia from western financial institutions, and beginning on Wednesday the U.S. would impose sanctions against individual Russians.
Biden says the sanctions are designed to “cut off” Russia from international loans and other forms of financial assistance it relies on. Penalties also will target Russian “elites” and their family members who profit from its military adventurism.
The sanctions block the Russia-to-Germany Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline that is newly built but isn’t operational. Additional sanctions will be put in place if Russia moves farther into Ukraine, he said.
He warned more sanctions are on deck if Moscow continues to move against Ukraine.
“As Russia contemplates its next move we have our next move prepared as well,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Biden blamed Putin for the crisis.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belongs to his neighbors?” Biden said at one point.
– Joey Garrison, Rick Rouan, David Jackson
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met Tuesday with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kubela and promised “unwavering” support for Ukraine.
Austin said the U.S. is working closely with allies to “find a way to avoid further conflict.” Echoing earlier comments from deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, he added that Putin “can still avoid a full blown, tragic war of choice.”
– Katie Wadington
The European Union on Tuesday followed Germany’s freezing of the Russia-owned Nord Stream 2 pipeline with sanctions against the Kremlin.
The first set of sanctions takes aim at Duma legislators who voted in favor of recognizing separatist regions in Ukraine, as well as several Russian officials. They also sought to limit Moscow’s access to EU capital and financial markets.
“This package of sanctions … will hurt Russia and it will hurt a lot,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Paris.
– Associated Press
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed support for U.S. pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“As he escalates his war against Ukraine, Putin must be made to pay a far heavier price than he paid for his previous invasions of Georgia and Ukraine,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
“This should begin, but not end, with devastating sanctions against the Kremlin and its enablers.”
The GOP leader, long considered a hawk on foreign affairs, has for months has been speaking to White House officials regarding action prior to a potential invasion by Russia.
In January, McConnell said the U.S. should have armed the Ukrainian government with “whatever weapons they think they need” to defend themselves against Putin’s forces.
McConnell reiterated on Tuesday how the U.S. and its allies “must ensure a pipeline of support, including arms, flows to Ukrainians resisting Russian aggression.” He added how the Biden administration must move with intention in the coming days.
“The president should waste no time in using his extensive existing authorities to impose these costs,” McConnell said. “Our NATO and EU allies must likewise take action to impose significant costs on Putin.”
– Phillip Bailey
Putin called Tuesday for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia.
He claimed Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula should be recognized globally as legitimate, a reflection of the local population’s choice, likening it to a vote for Kosovo independence. The annexation has been widely condemned by Western powers as a breach of international law.
He also called for an end to Ukraine’s NATO membership bid, suggestion Ukraine should be neutral. The Russian leader also called for a halt to weapons shipments there.
– Associated Press
Russia’s upper house of Parliament has granted Putin’s request for a permission to use military force outside the country. Putin asked lawmakers to formalize a Russian military deployment to rebel regions in eastern Ukraine, a day after the Russian leader recognized their independence.
In a press conference Tuesday, Putin said the move was needed to help in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
– Associated Press
President Joe Biden will speak to the nation about Russia and Ukraine on Tuesday afternoon as tensions escalate in the ongoing conflict.
Biden is scheduled to give an update at 1 p.m. from the East Room of the White House. The White House has promised “swift and severe” economic sanctions in response to any Russian invasion.
Biden’s remarks will come as a White House official called Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine an invasion.
– Rick Rouan
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new sanctions against five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals in the latest international backlash to Putin’s decision to send troops into eastern Ukraine.
In a speech to lawmakers Tuesday in the House of Commons, Johnson said Moscow’s actions “amount to a renewed invasion of that country.” The prime minister described the measures as “the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do,” adding the British government is prepared to impose more sanctions if the situation escalates further.
The measures target Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
Three “very high net worth” individuals were also hit: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg. Any assets the individuals hold in the U.K. will be frozen, and they will be banned from traveling to the country, while all U.K. individuals and entities will be prohibited from having dealings with them, according to Johnson.
He added Western allies would continue to seek a diplomatic solution “until the last possible moment, but we have to face the possibility that none of our messages have been heeded and that Putin is implacably determined to go further in subjugating and tormenting Ukraine.”
– Courtney Subramanian
A White House national security adviser said Tuesday that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has made it harder to pursue a diplomatic solution to the conflict, but the U.S. would not close the door on diplomacy.
Speaking to CNN’s Brianna Keilar, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said additional economic sanctions against Russia were forthcoming on Tuesday in response to what he described as “the beginning” of “Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine.”
“What Russia has done has made a diplomatic path much harder to walk down and much less likely,” Finer told Keilar.
He said Russia’s action on Monday “has closed the door even further to diplomacy” as it moved closer to war.
“We are not going to slam that door shut. We continue to believe that is the best way for this conflict to de-escalate rather than Russia continuing down the path to war,” he said. “They have given every indication they are on a different course.”
– Rick Rouan
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government would “reassess” the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which hasn’t begun operating yet.
The $11 billion, Russian-owned natural gas pipeline snakes westward from Russia to northeastern Germany for more than 700 miles under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline was launched in 2015 and follows a similar route to another pipeline, Nord Stream 1, which was completed in 2011.
Owned by Gazprom, a Russian state-controlled company, Nord Stream 2 was completed last year and has the capacity to handle 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year once it becomes operational.
The decision is a significant move for the German government, which had long resisted pulling the plug on the project despite pressure from the United States and some European countries to do so.
Scholz said that the government had decided to “reassess” the certification of the pipeline, which hasn’t begun operating yet, in light of the latest developments.
Germany meets about a quarter of its energy needs with natural gas, a share that will increase in the coming years as the country switches off its last three nuclear power plants and phases out the use of coal. About half of the natural gas used in Germany comes from Russia.
A day after Putin declared Moscow would recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, Russian lawmakers ratified the arrangement, allowing for the Kremlin to provide military support there.
Putin ordered troops Monday to “maintain peace” in the provinces shortly after recognizing the Russian-backed areas as independent, stoking fears that a Russian invasion could be coming soon. Convoys of armored vehicles were seen rolling across the separatist-controlled territories late Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were Russian.
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Monday night at the request of Ukraine, the United States and six other countries, including Russia, which holds the rotating council presidency.
Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo opened the session late Monday with a warning that “the risk of major conflict is real and needs to be prevented at all costs.”
U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Putin “has put before the world a choice” and it “must not look away” because “history tells us that looking the other way in the face of such hostility will be a far more costly path.”
Ukraine’s U.N. ambassador demanded that Russia cancel its recognition of the independence of the separatist regions in the east, immediately withdraw its “occupation troops” and return to negotiations.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said Putin acted in response to Ukrainian aggression. He said Russia was open to diplomacy but wouldn’t allow “a new bloodbath in the Donbas.”
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun called for restraint and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sought to project calm, telling the country in an address overnight: “We are not afraid of anyone or anything. We don’t owe anyone anything. And we won’t give anything to anyone.”
His foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, will be in Washington on Tuesday to meet with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the State Department said.
Contributing: Katie Wadington, Matthew Brown, USA TODAY; Associated Press