Updated Feb 22, 2022 - World

Biden imposes sanctions over Putin's recognition of breakaway Ukraine regions

President Biden
Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden is imposing sanctions on two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would recognize them as independent, the White House said on Monday.

The big picture: The U.S. and EU denounced Putin's move, calling it a violation of international law. The State Department was evacuating American personnel from Ukraine Monday, with many officials concerned that Putin's actions could be a pretext for a larger Russian invasion.

Meanwhile, Biden spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss a coordinated response on next steps, according to a readout from the White House.

  • He also spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, vowing to "respond swiftly and decisively, in lock-step with its Allies and partners, to further Russian aggression against Ukraine," the statement added.
What they're saying:

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement the executive order Biden signed Monday "will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine. We will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments."

  • "[T]hese 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," she added.
  • "Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., at the security council meeting denounced as "nonsense" Putin's description of Russian military activity in the breakaway provinces as "peacekeeping operations," accusing Russia of "creating a pretext for war."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Putin's action "represents a complete rejection of Russia's commitments under the Minsk agreements, directly contradicts Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and is a clear attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Zelensky said in a televised address early Tuesday "we will not give away anything to anyone," per CNN.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said in a statement Russia's decision violated Ukraine's "territorial integrity and sovereignty" and was "inconsistent" with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Macron tweeted that he had called for EU sanctions as well as Monday's security council meeting.

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted, "Tomorrow we will be announcing new sanctions on Russia in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference that Russia's move "is plainly in breach of international law. It's a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine. It is a repudiation of the Minsk process."

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in a statement that Russia's activity "further undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel issued a statement reiterating their "unwavering support" for Ukraine.

  • "This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements," they added. "The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act."

Turkey's Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement denouncing Russia for its "unacceptable" violation of Ukraine's "political unity and integrity."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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