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Biden announces new sanctions against Russia, says Ukraine is seeing ‘beginning of a Russian invasion’

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday, warning that President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine this week amounted to “the beginning of a Russian invasion.”

“We still believe that Russia is poised to go much further and launch a massive military attack against Ukraine,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

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

The sanctions announced Tuesday target large Russian financial institutions and Moscow’s sovereign debt, cutting the country off from Western financing. They also focus on five Russian elites with close ties to the Kremlin, but do not go after Putin directly.

Several U.S. allies including the European Union, Canada, Germany, Britain, Australia and Japan, announced they would also impose sanctions on Russia after Putin formally recognized the independence of two Moscow-backed breakaway regions in the eastern part of Ukraine on Monday and ordered troops into the territories to carry out what he called “peacekeeping functions.”

Feb. 22, 202201:28

The punitive measures appear intended to leave room for Putin to de-escalate and engage in diplomacy, while also aiming to deter Russia from pursuing a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said Tuesday he was moving some U.S. troops and equipment that are already in Europe to strengthen Baltic allies, but emphasized it was a “defensive” move. “We have no intention of fighting Russia,” Biden said.

More than 150,000 Russian troops continue to surround Ukraine, the president said, and Moscow has positioned military equipment, medical and blood supplies near the border. “You don’t need blood unless you plan on starting a war,” Biden said.

Putin’s decision to order troops into the breakaway regions was seen by the United States and its European allies as a dramatic provocation after weeks of warning that Moscow was trying to create a pretext to invade, and it raised concerns that Russia could soon move farther into Ukrainian territory.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced earlier Tuesday that he would halt the regulatory approval process for Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that bypasses Ukrainian transit infrastructure to deliver Russian gas directly to Germany. During a visit to the White House this month, Scholz had been unwilling to clearly commit to stopping the pipeline if Russia invaded.

“That’s an $11 billion investment in a prized gas pipeline controlled by Russia that will now go to waste,” said Daleep Singh, White House deputy national security advisor, in a briefing with reporters Tuesday. “And it’s a major turning point in the world’s energy independence from Russia.”

Russia’s status as one of the world’s largest energy suppliers means a disruption of supplies coming from the country could drive up gas prices in the U.S., amid the highest inflation rate in decades.

Russia is also a major global supplier of raw materials, such as aluminum, nickel, palladium and copper, and any disruption to the supply of those materials could rattle an already strained global supply chain.

Biden cautioned Americans that “defending freedom” will have a cost at home, but said his administration was closely monitoring the global energy supply “to limit the pain American people are feeling at the gas pump.”

“I’m going to take robust action to make sure the pain of our sanctions is targeted at the Russian economy — not ours,” Biden said Tuesday, adding that he would judge Russia by its actions, not just its words.

“I’m hoping diplomacy is still available,” he said.

But the chances of finding a diplomatic resolution looked increasingly unlikely Tuesday as Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced he was canceling a planned meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, citing Putin‘s move on the two breakaway regions.