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Biden announces sanctions on Russian oligarchs and banks

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By Euronews  with AP
President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Washington.
President Joe Biden speaks about Ukraine in the East Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022, in Washington.   -   Copyright  Alex Brandon/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

US President Joe Biden announced the US was ordering heavy financial sanctions against Russian banks and oligarchs on Tuesday, declaring that Moscow had flagrantly violated international law by invading Ukraine.

“None of us will be fooled” by Russian President Vladimir Putin's claims about Ukraine, the US President said in a live address from the East Room. 

And he said more sanctions could be on the way if Putin proceeds further.

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

President 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.

Germany also announced it was halting the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia - a lucrative deal long sought by Moscow but criticized by the US for increasing Europe’s reliance on Russian energy.

“None of us will be fooled” by Putin's claims about Ukraine, Biden said.

US President Joe Biden gives a speech about sanctions against Russia

American sanctions outlined

In his White House speech on Tuesday, President Biden said the US would impose “full blocking” on two large Russian financial institutions and “comprehensive sanctions” on Russian debt.

“That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western finance,” Biden said. “It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.”

The president announced what he called a first tranche of sanctions as Russian troops rolled into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Putin said he was recognizing the areas' independence on Monday. It was unclear how large the Russian deployment was, and Ukraine and its Western allies have long said Russian troops were already 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 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.”

Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin address U.S. troops stationed at the Powidz Air Base, in Poland, on Friday, Feb. 18, 2022Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

American troops being redeployed in the area

President Biden on Tuesday said he was authorizing the redeployment of some US troops who are already stationed in Europe to bolster the security of NATO’s Baltic allies, particularly in light of Russia’s troop build-up in Belarus.

The prime minster of Estonia and presidents of Latvia and Lithuania on Friday had made a direct plea to Vice President Kamala Harris for the US to step up its presence in the Baltics.

Biden said, “These are totally defensive moves on our part” and the US has no intention of deploying its forces in non-NATO-member Ukraine. But Biden also said the U.S. and its allies “will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.” The organization’s mutual-defense pact considers an attack on one member to be an attack against all.