Western allies began rolling out a wave of economic sanctions against the Kremlin after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Eastern Ukraine, The New York Times reports.
Putin and Russian officials in a heavily choreographed meeting Monday morning accused Ukraine of violating a ceasefire and attacking Russian-backed separatists in the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which sought to secede for eight years.
Putin later gave a speech declaring Donetsk and Luhansk independent states and went on a lengthy diatribe arguing that Ukraine is a not a “true country” and was “created by Russia.”
Putin ordered Russian troops into the separatist regions on a so-called “peacekeeping” mission.
“He calls them peacekeepers,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “This is nonsense. We know what they really are.”
It’s unclear whether Russia plans to remain in the territory held by the separatists or whether it plans to take over all of Donetsk and Luhansk and surrounding areas, including those held by Ukrainian forces.
US readies sanctions:
President Joe Biden declared sanctions against anyone doing business in the breakaway regions as the administration plans to roll out more aggressive sanctions targeting Russia.
Though the administration apparently had some discord over whether Russia’s entry into regions held by separatists constitutes an “invasion,” Jon Finer, Biden’s deputy national security adviser, told CNN that “an invasion is an invasion, and that is what is underway.”
The White House is still debating what sanctions to impose initially, planning to hold out on additional measures in case Russia escalates the situation.
"These measures," Psaki said of the first sanctions, "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."
Germany halts pipeline:
German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz announced that the country would halt the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia in response to the invasion.
The move came after Scholtz repeatedly declined to publicly threaten to halt the pipeline in the event of a Russian invasion.
“The situation today is fundamentally different,” Scholz said. “That is why we must re-evaluate this situation, in view of the latest developments. By the way, that includes Nord Stream 2.”
Ukraine called it a “morally, politically and practically correct step in the current circumstances.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said Russia was disappointed in the decision “because we’ve been reiterating this project has nothing to do with politics. And shouldn’t have. This is a purely economical, commercial project which, on top of mutual benefit, is meant to be a stabilizing factor for European gas market.”