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Biden orders sanctions on separatist regions of Ukraine, EU vows additional measures

A poster reading “All to defend homeland” and “Donbass is our land” is pictured in a street. Denis Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, asks Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic. As tension escalated in east Ukraine on 18 February, 2022, the Donetsk People’s Republic announced a mass evacuation of civilians to Russia. On 19 February 2022, it announced general mobilisation.
Alexander Ryumin | Tass | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The White House said Monday afternoon it was ready to respond immediately to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would sign an executive order that will “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic regions of Ukraine.”

“To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” Psaki wrote in a statement.

Psaki added that the Departments of State and Treasury will share additional details of the Biden administration’s actions shortly.

Putin’s decision to recognize the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, breakaway areas in the Donbas, came in an hour-long televised address Monday evening.

U.S. and European allies have warned that this kind of move by Putin could serve as a possible prelude to a Russian invasion.

European leaders also condemned Putin’s announcement and issued fresh threats to respond to the “blatant violation of international law.”

“The [European] Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act. The Union reiterates its unwavering support to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders,” wrote European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel in a joint statement.

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the development “a very ill omen” and “a very dark sign.”

“It’s certainly yet another indication that things are moving in the wrong direction in Ukraine. The U.K. will continue to do everything we can to stand by the people of Ukraine with a very robust package of sanctions,” Boris said Monday evening, adding that the U.K. will continue to fortify NATO’s eastern flank.

British Foreign Minister Liz Truss tweeted Monday night that the U.K. would announce new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Putin’s announcement “further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict. He also called on Moscow to immediately reverse its massive military build-up on Ukraine’s borders.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the White House reaction, saying in a statement the decision “directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy.”

“States have an obligation not to recognize a new ‘state’ created through the threat or use of force, as well as an obligation not to disrupt another state’s borders, Blinken said.

A White House official told NBC News said that Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday afternoon for nearly 40 minutes. Following his call with the Ukrainian president, Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss the next steps.

Last week, warned that recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk would trigger a “swift and firm response from the United States in full coordination with our Allies and partners.”

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