United States President Joe Biden responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday after the latter declared he is recognizing the independence of two regions in Ukraine.
Putin will likely use this recognition as a reason to invade Ukraine. Biden issued an executive order “that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in” the two regions in Ukraine that are currently being controlled by Russian-backed separatists Donetsk and Luhansk.
The U.S. President’s order will also “provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” press secretary Jen Psaki said. She explained that the U.S. “will also soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”
I have signed an Executive Order to deny Russia the chance to profit from its blatant violations of international law. We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps. pic.twitter.com/ZS81ivAPgs
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 22, 2022
The White House clarified that these sanctions are different from the ones the President had previously threatened: “These measures,” Psaki said, “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.”
The European Union also announced that it would “react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act” of recognizing the regions as independent entities.
The response comes after President Vladimir Putin made his announcement on Monday during a televised address.
Russian-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas region since 2014, in a conflict that Kyiv says has cost around 15,000 lives.
The Russian recognition of the breakaway of Donetsk and Luhansk territories buries a fragile peace process regulating the long-running conflict in eastern Ukraine and further increases tensions between Russia and the West.
Pretext for Russia to invade Ukraine?
Western powers fear such a move could be used as a pretext for Russia to invade its neighbor. That’s because, since 2019, Russia has issued large numbers of its own passports to people living in the two regions.
Analysts say that if Donetsk and Luhansk were recognized as independent, Russia might send troops into Ukraine’s east under the guise of protecting its own citizens.
Putin has been warned that if he follows through with this move to recognize the independence of the two self-declared republics in Ukraine, the EU is likely to impose sanctions.
“If there is annexation, there will be sanctions, and if there is recognition, I will put the sanctions on the table and the ministers will decide,” the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said earlier.
Borrell urged Putin to not recognize the separatist republics of Donbas.
“We call upon President Putin to respect international law and the Minsk agreements and expect him not to recognize the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast. And we are ready to react with a strong united front in case he should decide to do so,” said Borrell at a press conference on Monday following a meeting of EU’s foreign ministers in Brussels.