The Lead

Waves of Russian forces launch assault on Ukraine and U.S. prepares added sanctions

By: - February 24, 2022 10:54 am

President Joe Biden addresses a gathering of county commissioners in Washington D.C. on Tuesday, 2/15/22 (Screen Capture)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden Thursday vowed a “united and decisive” wave of sanctions against Russia after the country’s leaders ordered a military assault on Ukraine.

Russian military forces began attacking several cities and towns throughout the country, according to multiple news reports.

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”

Co-Chairs of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus released a statement Thursday morning, calling Russia’s military actions in Ukraine “a reprehensible violation of international law.”

“Together, the United States and our allies must unleash crippling sanctions against Russia, and swiftly bolster Ukraine’s military capabilities. The security and stability of Europe – and the preservation of global liberty – are all on the line,” wrote Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris, Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Illinois Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley.

The Biden administration committed to continued coordination with the other 29 nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “to ensure a strong, united response that deters any aggression against the Alliance.”

The sanctions Biden announces Thursday afternoon will build on sanctions imposed MondayTuesday and Wednesday this week that the administration referred to as a “first tranche.”

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The White House said that if Russian President Vladimir Putin escalated within Ukraine, the sanctions would increase. That escalation happened Thursday.

Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy overnight.

During the call, Biden “condemned this unprovoked and unjustified attack by Russian military forces” and Zelenskyy asked Biden “to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine.”

Biden met with the National Security Council Thursday morning in the Situation Room to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine, according to a White House official.

He is set to speak with leaders from the G7 countries later Thursday morning.

Biden has repeatedly vowed not to send U.S. soldiers into Ukraine to engage in a war with Russian troops, but he is likely to announce severe economic restrictions on Russia and possibly an increase in U.S. financial aid and weapons for Ukraine.

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The White House has not detailed what sanctions it would levy against Russia and its elites following the type of attack that took place Thursday, but White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday the administration could target financial institutions.

“There’s enormous financial institutions — the two largest banks, for example — which were not a part of the announcement we made yesterday,” Psaki said during the White House daily press briefing. “There’s additional steps we’ve expressed an openness to, including taking steps as it relates to export controls. So these are assessments we will continue to make internally.”

Members of the U.S. Congress swiftly condemned Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.

The chair of the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Democrat Gary Peters of Michigan, said in a statement that the U.S. should continue to issue “crippling sanctions” against Russia.

“My heart goes out to the people of Ukraine, who are victims of this unprovoked war, and I stand with the American people — including the more than 39,000 Michiganders of Ukrainian descent — in opposing this aggression,” he said.

Peters is also a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Ukrainian Caucus.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republican of Louisiana, said in a statement that “Russia has just become a pariah nation.”

“Everything short of involving U.S. forces should be done to punish this action,” he said. “This should be unrelenting.”

In Missouri, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt on Wednesday said that while he wanted sanctions imposed earlier, “I do think the president’s decision to call this what it is, an invasion, and the president’s decision to move forward with these sanctions is important.”

Further sanctions are needed, Blunt, a Republican, said.

“I think we are going to have to add, in all likelihood, sanctions to those individuals who really need to feel the pain of what happens when Russia is aggressive,” he said.

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.