Washington: US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced a series of economic sanctions against Russia as he accused his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin of aggression against Ukraine.

Biden, announcing America’s first tranche of economic sanctions against Russia, told reporters at the White House that ìthere’s no question that Russia is the aggressor. So, we’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facingî.

He said that a day earlier, Putin recognised two regions of Ukraine as independent states.

Putin bizarrely asserted that these regions are no longer part of Ukraine and their sovereign territory. To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine, Biden said.

“Last night, Putin authorised Russian forces to deploy into these regions. Today, he asserted that these regions actually, extend deeper than the two areas he recognised, claiming large areas currently under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian government.

“He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force in my view. And if we listen to his speech last night, he’s setting up a rationale to go much further. This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine as he indicated and asked permission to be able to do from his duma,” the US President said.

Biden said that these sanctions have been closely coordinated with America’s allies and partners and will continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates.

“We’re implementing full-blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions, VEB and their military bank. We’re implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. That means we’ve cut off Russia’s government from Western financing. It can no longer raise money from the West and cannot trade in its new debt on our markets or European markets either.

“Starting tomorrow and continuing in the days ahead, we’ll also impose sanctions on Russia’s elites and their family members. They share in the corrupt gains of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well. Because of Russia’s actions, we work with Germany to ensure Nord Stream 2 will not, as I promised, will not move forward,” Biden said.

“As Russia contemplates its next move, we have our next move prepared as well,” he said.

Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression, including additional sanctions, he warned.

Biden said that in response to Russia’s admission that it will not withdraw its forces from Belarus, he has authorised additional movements of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen its Baltic allies: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

“Let me be clear: These are totally defensive moves on our part. We have no intention of fighting Russia. We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the United States, together with our allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.

“We still believe that Russia is poised to go much further in launching a massive military attack against Ukraine. Hope I’m wrong about that, hope we’re wrong about that, but Russia has only escalated its threat against the rest of Ukrainian territory, including major cities and including the capital city of Kyiv. There are still well over 150,000 Russian troops surrounding Ukraine,” Biden added.

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