President Joe Biden answers questions during a news conference in the East Room of the White House on January 19, 2022

President Joe Biden.Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced sweeping sanctions against Russia over its recent actions toward Ukraine.

“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Biden said from the White House.

The president said the sanctions went much further than those imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Biden announced “full blocking sanctions” on two large Russian financial institutions — VEB and Russia’s military bank.

The sanctions also target Russia’s 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,” Biden said.

Sanctions will also be imposed against Russian elites and their family members, Biden said, adding: “They share in the corrupt games of the Kremlin policies and should share in the pain as well.”

He said Russia would pay an even “steeper price” if it continued to take aggressive moves against Ukraine.

In addition to the sanctions, Biden said the US would “continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine,” while announcing “additional movements of US forces and equipment already stationed in Europe to strengthen our Baltic allies — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.”

The president said these moves were defensive and the US had no intention of fighting Russia but emphasized that the US “will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO.”

Biden said Russia had effectively announced it was “carving out a big chunk of Ukraine last night and authorized Russian forces to deploy into the regions.”

Russia on Monday recognized two breakaway territories in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — Donetsk and Luhansk — as independent. Subsequently, Moscow said it was sending troops into the territories to serve as “peacekeepers.”

Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin appeared to be “setting up a rationale to take more territory by force.” He excoriated the Russian leader over his actions toward Ukraine.

“Who in the Lord’s name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called countries on territory that belong to his neighbors? This is flagrant violation of international law,” Biden said.

In 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Since that year, Russia has supported rebels in the Donbas in a war against Ukrainian forces that’s killed over 13,000.

The US has issued sanctions against Russia over its involvement in Ukraine in the past, but Tuesday’s actions marked a significant escalation.

The Biden administration in recent months repeatedly told Russia that it would face crippling economic sanctions if it invaded Ukraine but has consistently said US troops will not be sent into Ukraine to defend it against Russian forces. But the US has provided Ukraine with billions of dollars in security assistance — including lethal aid — since 2014.

Since late last year, Russia has gathered tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border. It’s not clear whether Russia has plans to send troops beyond the Donbas. But Russian lawmakers on Tuesday gave Putin permission to use force abroad — which could pave the way for a broader invasion of Ukraine.

“When all is said and done, we’re going to judge Russia by its actions, not its words,” Biden said on Tuesday. “I’m hoping diplomacy is still available.”

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