Biden announces sanctions against Russian oligarchs, banks amid escalation

The Western rejection of Moscow’s demands gives Russia the right to take other steps to protect its security, Putin said.

By Associated Press

President Joe Biden announced the U.S. was ordering heavy financial sanctions against Russian banks and oligarchs on Tuesday, declaring that Moscow had flagrantly violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

“None of us will be fooled” by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims about Ukraine, the U.S. President said, adding that more sanctions could be on the way if Putin proceeds further.

Biden said he was also moving additional U.S. troops to the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank bordering Russia.

Biden joined the 27 European Union members who unanimously agreed on Tuesday to levy their own initial set of sanctions targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine.

Earlier Tuesday, Russian lawmakers authorized President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside the country — a move that could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the U.S. said an invasion was already underway there.

Several European leaders said Russian troops rolled into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin recognized their independence. But it was unclear how large the deployment was, and Ukraine and its Western allies have long said Russian troops were fighting in the region, allegations that Moscow always denied.

Members of Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, voted unanimously to allow Putin to use military force outside the country — effectively formalizing a Russian military deployment to the rebel regions, where an eight-year conflict has killed nearly 14,000 people.

Shortly after, Putin laid out three conditions to end the crisis that has threatened to plunge Europe back into war, raising the specter of massive casualties, energy shortages across the continent and economic chaos around the globe.

Putin said the crisis could be resolved if Kyiv recognizes Russia’s sovereignty over Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, renounces its bid to join NATO and partially demilitarizes.

The West has decried the annexation of Crimea as a violation of international law and has previously flatly rejected permanently barring Ukraine from NATO.

Asked whether he has sent any Russian troops into Ukraine and how far they could go, Putin responded: “I haven’t said that the troops will go there right now.”

He added coyly that “it’s impossible to forecast a specific pattern of action –- it will depend on a concrete situation as it takes shape on the ground.”

The Western rejection of Moscow’s demands gives Russia the right to take other steps to protect its security, Putin said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it will evacuate its diplomatic personnel from Ukraine “in the nearest time,” pointing to attacks on diplomatic buildings, cars and physical threats against diplomats in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Odesa, Lviv and Kharkiv.