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West hits back with sanctions for Russia's Ukraine actions

Germany takes steps to cancel gas pipeline
Vladimir Putin
Posted at 7:12 AM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 15:09:41-05

MOSCOW — The White House announced its first tranche of sanctions on Russia after it called the country's moves on Ukraine an invasion.

U.S. President Joe Biden announced the sanctioning of Russian financial institutions and oligarchs on Tuesday.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said a package approved by member nations would affect members of Russia’s lower house of parliament and other individuals involved in approving the deployment of Russian troops to separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine. Germany announced it would halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia — a massive, lucrative deal long sought by Moscow.

President Biden declared that Moscow had flagrantly violated international law in what he called the “beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The president announced actions that include new sanctions on financial activity connected to Russia's sovereign debt, as well as sanctions on Russian elites and their family members.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has canceled plans to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva later this week as Russia presses ahead with recognition of separatist regions of Ukraine.
Blinken told reporters that Russia’s actions indicate Moscow is not serious about a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis. As a result, he says, he has called off his Thursday meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Ukrainian Minister for Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said Tuesday at the State Department, "I would like to say that condemnations are important, but it's actions that really matter now these days and I'm grateful to our strategic partner, the United States, for its ironclad support." He said, "The Ukrainian people will surely remember the United States and its support."

President Biden added that his administration is taking steps to make sure gas prices don't go up and that the U.S. has no intentions of fighting Russia.

This latest round of sanctions comes the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked for and received permission from the country’s parliament for permission to use military force outside the country. That could presage a broader attack on Ukraine after the U.S. said an invasion was already underway there.

The move came the same day that Russia recognized the independence for areas in eastern Ukraine extends to territory currently held by Ukrainian forces, further raising the stakes amid Western fears that a full-fledged invasion of Ukraine is imminent.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia had recognized the rebel regions' independence "in borders that existed when they proclaimed" their independence in 2014. Ukrainian forces later reclaimed control of a large part of both regions during a nearly eight-year conflict that has killed over 14,000 people.

The announcement comes a day after Russia said it would recognize the independence — but didn't say exactly what it considered the borders of those areas to be.

In recent weeks, Russia has amassed 150,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, sparking fears of an invasion. On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into those rebel regions as a way to "maintain peace."

Scholz told reporters in Berlin on Tuesday that the decision was a direct response to Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

The pipeline bringing natural gas from Russia to Germany has long been criticized by the United States and some European countries, who argue that it increases Europe's reliance on Russian energy supplies.

Gas pipeline
Map shows imports of natural gas into Europe come from both pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Scholz said that the government had decided to "reassess" the pipeline certification, which hasn't begun operating yet.

"That will certainly take time, if I may say so," he said.

The cancellation of the pipeline comes as the White House and President Joe Biden are preparing executive orders that will "prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine."