Biden calls on the world to punish Russia for its attempt to annex Ukraine

WASHINGTON – President Biden on Friday condemned Russia’s claim to annex captured Ukrainian territory, in response to Moscow’s recent escalation of a series of sanctions and President Vladimir Putin’s warning that the United States would defend “every inch” of NATO territory from a potential attack.

Hours after Mr. Putin delivered a speech asserting Russian control of four regions of eastern Ukraine, Biden called the action a “fraudulent” violation of international law that showed “contempt for peaceful countries everywhere”.

“The United States will never realize this, and quite frankly, the world will not recognize it either,” Biden said from the White House. “He can’t seize his neighbor’s land with impunity. It’s simple that way.”

World leaders rallied around Biden in a strong collective condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Russia had committed a “serious violation of international law and Ukrainian sovereignty.” Pledge on Twitter To help Ukraine “restore its full sovereignty over its entire territory.”

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, called Putin’s move an “illegal and illegitimate land grab” and vowed to continue helping Ukraine until the aggressor is defeated.

Even among Russia’s traditional allies, no country has come forward to recognize the annexation. And Uzbekistan, one of the former Soviet republics located in Central Asia, issued a statement before Mr. Putin’s speech calling for “respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has responded to Russia’s allegations by declaring that he is speeding up his country’s bid to join NATO. In a video, he accused the Kremlin of trying to “steal something that does not belong to it.”

“Ukraine will not allow this,” he said.

But Mr. Zelensky’s request to join the alliance met with a less resonant response.

“Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical support on the ground in Ukraine,” said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.

The new sanctions imposed by the Biden administration are aimed at further crippling Russia’s defense and technology sectors and other industries, and isolating more senior officials and their families from global commerce. Among these officials are two governors of the Russian Central Bank.

But with widespread Western sanctions already in place against Russia, these actions may be less important than the administration’s efforts to isolate Moscow globally through new appeal to countries that have not chosen an explicit side in the conflict.

“I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts to annex and stand by the people of Ukraine for as long as possible,” Biden said in a statement.

Biden’s warning to Putin comes amid strong suspicions by US officials that Russia was responsible for the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines that run between Russia and Germany. The damage occurred near NATO countries in the Baltic Sea but in international waters.

Mr. Sullivan told reporters at the White House that the United States “has increased our surveillance and monitoring of critical infrastructure on NATO territory.”

US officials have long worried that Mr. Putin could escalate the war with a conventional military strike against sites in Eastern European countries such as Poland and Romania, both NATO allies, that serve as transit points for weapons into Ukraine, or with cyberattacks.

The new round of sanctions fulfills longstanding pledges by the Biden administration to punish any move by Russia to annex the seized Ukrainian territory. But the United States has struggled to expand its alliance of countries aiding Ukraine, and many world powers, notably China and India, have maintained strategic partnerships with Russia and continue to enrich Moscow with energy purchases.

That could change if Mr. Putin decides to make his threats to use nuclear weapons more explicit. Putin said that Russia would take any available measures to protect its territory, and some analysts said he might apply this threat against Ukrainian military actions in the areas it illegally annexed. Mr. Biden has strongly warned Mr. Putin against the use of nuclear weapons, and some of his aides say they hope other world leaders will convey the same message to Moscow.

After Mr. Putin made ominous references in his speech to the use of nuclear weapons, Mr. Sullivan told reporters that “there is a danger, given all the loose talk and nuclear attack by Putin,” that it might be considered a nuclear weapon. He hits. Analysts say that would likely take the form of a relatively small tactical nuclear weapon, either on the battlefield or as a warning shot in an unpopulated area.

Despite Mr. Putin’s latest move, the Biden administration is still holding back from the dramatic move of imposing sanctions on international purchases of Russian energy. US officials fear that energy prices will skyrocket, especially ahead of mid-term congressional elections, and with Europeans feeling frustrated about household energy costs. Officials from the Group of Seven are discussing setting a price ceiling for Russian oil purchases but have not agreed on how to implement it.

The United States and major European countries announced their boycott of Russian oil and gas. But higher energy prices since Putin’s invasion have boosted profits for Russian companies and the central government. Besides China and India, other countries have increased their purchases of Russian oil over the past year, including Turkey, a NATO member.

US officials say they hope that even if these countries do not formally establish a cap on the price of Russian oil, all buyers can use the cap to negotiate much lower prices, which could drain Russia’s revenue.

The sanctions announced on Friday added other names to the long lists of Russian officials, companies and institutions sanctioned by US agencies in the early weeks of the war.

The Treasury said it will impose sanctions on 14 Russian executives and companies and international companies, including companies in China, Armenia and Belarus, for supplying them to the Russian military.

“This action sends a clear message that international suppliers to sanctioned Russian entities and the Russian defense sector are at risk of being sanctioned,” Foreign Minister Anthony J. Blinken said in a statement.

The Ministry of Commerce has added 57 entities from Russia and Ukraine’s Crimea region, which the Russian military forcibly occupied in 2014, to what it calls the Entity List, with the aim of severely restricting business transactions. US officials said they would try to ensure that business between the foreign companies and those on the list would be restricted. The Ministry of Commerce now has 392 Russia-related entities on the list.

Since the winter, the Biden administration has steadily announced travel and economic sanctions against many Russian political elites, but targeted more of them on Friday. The State Department has imposed visa restrictions on more than 900 Russian officials. The Treasury puts nearly 300 members of parliament on its sanctions list.

Treasury officials also named several other dignitaries who were added to the list: Elvira Sakipzadovna Nabiulina, governor of the Central Bank of Russia; Olga Nikolaevna Skorobogatova, First Deputy Governor of the Bank; Alexander Valentinovich Nova, Deputy Prime Minister; and relatives of members of the Russian National Security Council. US agencies had already put Security Council members on their lists.

The move against Ms. Nabiullina may be a sign that US officials are struggling to find new and meaningful targets for sanctions that fall short of the international energy market. Ms. Nabiullina was praised by international economists and bankers for her policymaking, and some US officials were reluctant to put her on the sanctions list.

Daniel Tannebaum, a former Treasury official and partner at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, said the sanctions announced Friday are unlikely to change Putin’s calculus. “I don’t think he’s necessarily going to move the needle in terms of clamping down on Russia,” he said.

The Biden administration introduced a resolution at the UN Security Council on Friday condemning Russia’s territorial claim. Russia vetoed the measure, and US officials said they intend to bring the measure before the full United Nations next week.

For months, US officials have been analyzing the statements of major countries that have remained neutral on the Ukraine war, or are allied with Moscow, for any signs of daylight between them and Russia.

At the start of a meeting at a summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, last month, Mr. Putin acknowledged that Chinese President Xi Jinping had “questions and concerns” about the war. US officials say Beijing, Moscow’s most powerful partner, has refrained from providing Russia with material aid for the war.

But officials also say they see no rupture in that strategic partnership.

“The Chinese are keeping their line,” said Evan Medeiros, a professor at Georgetown University who was the senior director for Asia on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama. The Biden administration knows that Beijing will not bring them any water to Russia.

Alan Rabeport Contribute to the preparation of reports.

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