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The “First Barrage” Of Sanctions Against Russia Has Begun

Western nations moved forward on new sanctions against Moscow -- including a delay in its prized Nord Stream 2 pipeline -- in reaction to President Vladimir Putin’s move to recognize two separatist regions in Ukraine as independent states and to send troops to the territories.

Russia’s two houses of parliament on February 22 rubber-stamped Putin’s decision by voting to ratify friendship treaties with the territories in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

Western leaders said Russia’s actions had increased the chances of a full-scale war in the middle of Europe as they scrambled to coordinate sanctions to punish Moscow while still attempting to persuade the Kremlin to stop short of an invasion of Ukraine.

The White House on February 22 began referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion,” indicating that a red line had been crossed that would result in the U.S. levying severe sanctions against Moscow.

“We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine,” said Jon Finer, principal deputy national-security adviser. “An invasion is an invasion and that is what is under way.”

U.S. officials said late on February 21 that Washington was coordinating with allies and will on February 22 announce the new sanctions against Moscow.

The European Union, meanwhile, said a “first package” of sanctions would be discussed and likely approved later on February 22 at a meeting of the 27-member bloc’s foreign ministers.

Britain will slap sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals in what British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the “first barrage” of measures against Moscow for its actions against Ukraine.

He told Parliament that Britain still had an array of financial weapons to hit Moscow with should it intensify the crisis.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain will slap sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals in what he called the “first barrage” of measures against Moscow for its actions against Ukraine.

"The U.K. and our allies will begin to impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared using the new and unprecedented powers granted by this House to sanction Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin," Johnson told Parliament on February 22.

He told Parliament that Britain still had an array of financial weapons to hit Moscow with should it intensify the crisis.

"It is absolutely vital that we hold in reserve further powerful sanctions...in view of what President [Vladimir] Putin may do next," he said.

"We want to stop Russian companies from being able to raise funds in sterling or indeed in dollars.... We want them to stop raising funds on U.K. markets and we want to strip away the veil that conceals the ownership of property in this country," Johnson said.

He said that sanctions would hit Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank, and the Black Sea Bank.

Three Russian oligarchs with interests in energy and infrastructure -- Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg -- will have their assets frozen and be banned from traveling to Britain, he said. The three have already been sanctioned by the United States.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country was putting the certifying process of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia via the Baltic Sea on hold in reaction to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Scholz told reporters he had asked for a suspension of the review process by the German regulator for the $11 billion pipeline. It was not immediately clear how long this would delay the start of operations on the pipeline or when certification might be restarted.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the White House had been "in close consultations with Germany overnight and welcome their announcement." She added that the United States would "be following up with our own measures today."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy conducted a meeting of his national security council and held phone calls with several world leaders in an effort to shore up support for his country.

“We expect clear support steps and effective support steps from our partners," he said late on February 21 in a televised address.

"It is very important to see now who is our true friend and partner, and who will continue to scare the Russian Federation with words," he said. "We are on our own land.”

He later said he was considering a request from his Foreign Ministry to break diplomatic ties with Moscow over the latest developments.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told reporters after a UN Security Council meeting that "tomorrow, the United States will impose sanctions on Russia for this clear violation of international law and Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity."

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"We can, will, and must stand united in our calls for Russia to withdraw its forces, return to the diplomatic table, and work toward peace," she said.

However, U.S. administration officials said Putin's action did not trigger a broad package of sanctions that Washington and its allies would have slapped on Moscow if it invaded Ukraine, saying it would for now set less-severe measures because Russia already had troops in the breakaway region.

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Russia in 2014 invaded Ukraine and seized the Crimea region and has since aided separatists in eastern Ukraine in their bloody conflict with the government in Kyiv.

It has amassed more than 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s border over recent months, raising fears of an imminent invasion of its neighbor.

Moscow had denied it was planning to invade Ukraine prior to Putin’s order on February 21 to send troops into the separatist areas, saying they were needed to keep the peace and protect civilians -- claims the West quickly dismissed.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Putin's action "further undermines Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, erodes efforts towards a resolution of the conflict, and violates the Minsk Agreements, to which Russia is a party."

"Moscow continues to fuel the conflict in eastern Ukraine by providing financial and military support to the separatists. It is also trying to stage a pretext to invade Ukraine once again," the chief of the Western military alliance added.

Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the European Union's two most senior figures, condemned Putin's action as "a blatant violation of international law."

Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for Justice, called Russia’s recognition of the separatist regions as independent states and the decision to send troops there an “act of war.”

Reynders said the bloc is prepared to impose sanctions on Russia, although he added that the moves could be “gradual” and would require unanimous consent of all 27 members.

By RFE/RL

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  • Thomas on February 22 2022 said:
    Job assignment? Really? That of babies now are we oil workers? Glad they locked you out!

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