WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the U.S. was ordering heavy financial sanctions against Russian banks and oligarchs, declaring that Moscow had violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“None of us will be fooled” by Putin’s claims about Ukraine, Biden said. And he said more sanctions could be on the way if Putin proceeds further.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that any plans for a meeting between Biden and Putin are off the table for the time being. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said he sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov a letter informing him a meeting planned for Thursday was off.
After Biden’s announcement, NewsNation confirmed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer requested an all-Senate briefing on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
“They can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets, or European markets either,” Biden said.
The new sanctions include blocking two Russian financial institutions, the VEB and military bank, and cutting Russia’s government off from Western financing.
Biden joined the 27 European Union members who unanimously agreed Tuesday to levy their own initial set of sanctions targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine.
Early on Wednesday other nations announced moves to pressure Russia:
- Australia approved sanctions and travel bans that target eight members of the Russian Security Council. It also agreed to expand previous sanctions and to align with the United States and Britain by targeting two Russian banks.
- New Zealand’s government summoned Russian Ambassador Georgii Zuev to meet Wednesday with top diplomatic officials who are urging Russia to return to diplomatic negotiations over Ukraine.
- Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Wednesday that his government will ban the new issuance and distribution of Russian government bonds in Japan in response to the “actions Russia has been taking in Ukraine.” He said Japan will also suspend visa issuance to people linked to the two Ukrainian rebel regions and freeze their assets in Japan, and will ban trade with the two areas.
The Biden and EU sanctions came hours after 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 Ukraine rebel regions, where an eight-year conflict has killed nearly 14,000 people. This move could presage a broader attack on Ukraine. Russian troops moved into rebel-held areas Monday after Putin recognized their independence.
“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries?” Biden said.
The White House began referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term.
“An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway,” said Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer Tuesday.
For weeks, Western powers have been bracing for an invasion as Russia massed an estimated 150,000 troops on three sides of neighboring Ukraine. They warned an attack would cause massive casualties, energy shortages in Europe and economic chaos around the globe — and promised swift and severe sanctions if it materialized. The European Union and Britain announced Tuesday that some of those measures were coming.
The West insisted Putin’s bold moves in Ukraine violated countless international agreements and since diplomacy has failed, it was time to move toward action.
In response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, Biden said he authorized the additional movement of U.S. forces and equipment that are already stationed in Europe to assist Baltic allies.
Biden stressed that this was a “totally defensive move” on the United States’ part.
“We have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said. “We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the U.S., together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory.”
Despite what may be happening internationally, however, Biden said his administration is using “every tool” at its disposal to protect American businesses and consumers from “rising prices at the pump.”
“I’m going to take robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted to Russia’s economy, not ours,” Biden said.
This means closely monitoring energy supplies for any disruptions, and executing a plan in coordination with major oil producers to secure stability and global energy supplies, he said.
As the conflict in Ukraine continues, NewsNation will bring Americans the latest developments from abroad and insights into its impact at home throughout our newscasts. We’re dropping the paywall on our live stream so it’s available to everyone. You can watch NewsNation’s programming, including the latest on Ukraine, at the top of the hour from 7-10 a.m. and 5-11 p.m. ET.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.