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ukraine crisis

US sanctions Russia for 'beginning' invasion of Ukraine

Putin has received permission from Russia’s upper house to use the army outside its borders to support separatists in Ukraine.

LAST UPDATE | 22 Feb 2022

JOE BIDEN TODAY announced tough new sanctions on Russia for “beginning” an invasion of Ukraine but said there was still time to avoid war, even as Vladimir Putin signaled plans to send troops beyond Russia’s borders.

Russia’s upper house, the Federation Council, gave Putin unanimous approval to deploy “peacekeepers” to two breakaway Ukrainian regions now recognized by Moscow as independent, and potentially into other parts of Ukraine.

Biden announced what he called the “first tranche” of sanctions, including steps to starve Russia of financing and target financial institutions and its “elites.”

But he left the door open to a final effort at diplomacy to avert a bloody full-scale Russian invasion.

“There’s no question that Russia is the aggressor, so we’re clear eyed about the challenges we’re facing,” the president said in a nationwide address from the White House.

“Nonetheless, there is still time to avert the worst case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people if they move as suggested.”

The announcement followed a wave of sanctions announced by Britain and the European Union, after Putin recognised the self-declared Donetsk and Lugansk rebel republics.

Germany also announced it was halting certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia.

Putin’s plans remained unclear, but Western officials have been warning for weeks he has been preparing for an all-out invasion of Ukraine, a move that could spark a catastrophic war in Europe.

 Sanctions are being imposed on two large Russian financial institutions; VEB and its military bank.

“We’re implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing, it can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either,” Biden said.

“Starting tomorrow and continuing in the days ahead we will also impose sanctions on Russia’s elites and their family members. They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well.”

The US will continue to send defensive weapons to Ukraine, as well as troops to Baltic countries in Nato.

“As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well. Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions.”

Putin’s order has been widely seen as paving the way for an operation to deploy part of the potential invasion force he has massed on Ukraine’s borders.

The recognition of the separatist republics effectively buries a fragile 2015 peace plan for the conflict and opens the door for direct Russian military involvement.

‘Genius Putin’

Former US president Donald Trump today hailed Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine as “genius” but said the crisis would not have happened under the Republican firebrand’s administration.

During an appearance on a rightwing radio program, the hosts asked Trump about Putin recognising two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent.

“I went in yesterday and there was a television screen, and I said, ‘This is genius,’” Trump responded.

“Putin declares a big portion of the Ukraine — of Ukraine — Putin declares it as independent. Oh, that’s wonderful.”

Trump said Putin’s tactics had been “smart” and argued, without elaborating, that the United States could replicate them on its border with Mexico.

He followed up with a separate statement arguing that the Ukraine crisis could have been averted altogether if it had been “properly handled” by President Joe Biden, who defeated him in the 2020 election.

“I know Vladimir Putin very well, and he would have never done during the Trump administration what he is doing now, no way!” the twice-impeached former president said.

Sanctions package

Earlier today, EU countries “unanimously agreed on an initial sanctions package,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters after meeting of top diplomats in Paris.

He accused Russia of “violating international law” and “breaching its commitments”.

The bloc is looking to target banks financing Russian operations in Ukraine’s separatist territories and Moscow’s access to European financial markets.

The sanctions will also target Russian parliament members who backed recognising breakaway regions as independent and will inflict severe damage on the country, the EU’s foreign policy chief said.

“The sanctions will hurt Russia and will hurt a lot,” Josep Borrell told reporters.

He said that targets for asset freezes and visa bans included 351 members of the Russian Duma lower house who appealed to President Vladimir Putin to recognise the two regions as independent.

Meanwhile, in Russia, Vladimir Putin has received permission from Russian legislators for the use of the country’s army outside its borders.

The Russian President had asked the country’s upper house to approve using the army outside its borders to support separatists in Ukraine, deputy defence minister Nikolay Pankov told a session of the chamber.

“Negotiations have stalled. The Ukrainian leadership has taken the path of violence and bloodshed,” the minister said during an ongoing unscheduled session of the Federation Council called at Putin’s request.

153 senators approved the decision, with no votes against the proposal or abstentions.

Earlier today, the Russian parliament voted to ratify Putin’s agreements with separatist regions, which allow Russia to send troops and set up military bases in Donetsk and Lugansk.

The UK is looking to impose similar sanctions on five Russian banks and three “very high net worth” individuals.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Boris Johnson said: “Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.”

“This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed,” he said.

The Russian ambassador to the UK was summoned “to explain Russia’s violation of international law and disregard of Ukraine’s sovereignty”, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.

During a press conference alongside Taoiseach Micheál Martin in Berlin this morning, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that he was suspending the Nord Stream 2 project in response to Moscow’s recognition of the two breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

Scholz said he had asked to halt the review process by the German regulator for the pipeline.

“That sounds technical, but it is the necessary administrative step so there can be no certification of the pipeline and without this certification, Nord Stream 2 cannot begin operating,” he said.

Scholz added that a decision to halt the project was only one “concrete” step and that further sanctions could follow.

“There are also other sanctions that we can introduce if further measures are taken, but for now, it’s a matter of doing something very concrete,” he told journalists.

German’s Defence Minister said it is ready to deploy more troops to Lithuania, where Germany leads a Nato battalion.

Nato deployed four battalions to Baltic states Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as well as Poland in 2017 after Moscow annexed Crimea and helped separatists take over parts of eastern Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney this morning said the EU needed to determine how severe the sanctions package would be, saying there’s no way it could ignore “what is a blatant breach of international law”.

Coveney believes there are currently approximately 60 Irish citizens in Ukraine.


Russia said its recognition of independence for areas in eastern Ukraine extends to territory currently held by Ukrainian forces.

The statement today further raises the stakes amid Western fears that Moscow could follow up yesterday’s recognition of rebel regions with a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Russia has recognised the rebel regions’ independence “in borders that existed when they proclaimed” their independence in 2014.

Russia’s parliament has voted to ratify Putin’s agreements with the separatist regions.

Under the agreements, Russia will be able to send troops, set up military bases and jointly defend the territories of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR).

The lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, voted unanimously to approve the deals.

The voting ended in standing applause from MPs.

Russia is not planning to send troops to eastern Ukraine “for now” but will do so in case of a “threat”, a foreign ministry official said today after the parliament ratified the deals with Ukraine’s separatist republics.

UN Security Council

The United States and its allies rounded on Russia during an emergency Security Council session last night, denouncing Vladimir Putin’s latest moves a gross violation of international law and “pretext for war”.

Addressing the council last night, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield heaped scorn on Putin’s assertion that the Russian troops would take on a peacekeeping role in the Donetsk and Lugansk areas.

“He calls them peacekeepers. This is nonsense. We know what they really are,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

Ukraine’s ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya insisted that his country’s borders remain “unchangeable” despite Russia’s actions.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said Moscow is still “open to diplomacy for a diplomatic solution” – but warned against what he dubbed Ukrainian aggression.

“Allowing a new bloodbath in the Donbass is something we do not intend to do,” he added, referring to the region encompassing Donetsk and Lugansk.

Leaders in Asia and elsewhere voiced strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty today, along with worries about how a European war could hurt global and local economies and endanger foreign nationals trapped in Ukraine.

However, China, a traditional ally of Russia, sounded a cautious note, calling for restraint and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in said Ukraine’s sovereignty and territory must be respected, while Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida criticised Russia for violating Ukrainian territorial integrity and said it would discuss possible including sanctions, with the international community.

Nato member Turkey, which has close relations to both Ukraine and Russia, also criticised Russia’s decision to recognise the independence of the regions in eastern Ukraine.

aptopix-ukraine-tensions-belarus-border Ukrainian border guard officers patrol the Ukrainian-Belarusian state border at a checkpoint in Novi Yarylovychi, Ukraine. Oleksandr Ratushniak Oleksandr Ratushniak

Ireland’s reaction

Confirming that the Government will support additional EU sanctions on Russia, Minister Coveney said the claim that the troops deployed in Ukraine are peacekeepers is “nonsense”.

“You don’t send peacekeepers in in tanks and attack helicopters. This is unfortunately, Russia, forcing its will militarily on a part of Ukraine,” Coveney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

During last night’s meeting, Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN, called Russia’s actions “a flagrant violation of international law,” saying the “unilateral step” had “cast into doubt all the diplomatic efforts of past weeks.”

“(We) have the responsibility to work to resolve this conflict, rather than yield to a grim new chapter, which will inflict further misery on Ukraine and its people.”

Byrne Nason said those in the room “all need to demonstrate our faith in the value of diplomacy tonight”.

It comes after the Government branded Russia’s recognition of two separatist Ukrainian regions as a “blatant violation” of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday said Ireland would stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

© – AFP, 2022 additional reporting from Press Association and Céimin Burke and Lauren Boland

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