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Biden administration announces “swift and severe” sanctions against Russia

A US-led effort to win United Nations Security Council support for a resolution condemning Russia-organized referendums and its attempt to illegally annex four regions of Ukraine failed to pass on Friday when Russia, as anticipated, vetoed the measure.

Four nations — China, India, Brazil and Gabon — abstained from voting in the 15-member body, despite calls from the United States to “stand up and defend our collective beliefs.”

The UN effort was part of a broader package of responses by the Biden administration and US allies to President Vladimir Putin’s signing of annexation decrees formally incorporating areas of southern and eastern Ukraine. under their partial occupation, and declare that the people who live there “will be our citizens forever.”

Speaking at the White House after Putin’s signing ceremony in the Kremlin, President Biden said he “will not scare us or intimidate us. You can’t take the neighbor’s land from him and get away with it.”

Three maps explaining Russia’s annexations and losses in Ukraine

The administration announced a new round of sanctions designed to restrict Russia’s defense industry’s access to technology and materials, and expand sanctions on Russian government officials and their family members, as well as Russian and Belarusian military officials. .

The United States said it was sending a “clear warning” that there will be costs to any individual, entity or country that provides political or economic support to Russia. Three agencies — the Treasury, Commerce and State Departments — are imposing “rapid and severe costs” on Russia, the administration said.

“Russia is violating international law, trampling on the Charter of the United Nations, and showing contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” President Biden said. “Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy.”

He added: “The United States will always honor the internationally recognized borders of Ukraine. We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically.”

National security adviser Jake Sullivan, when asked by reporters whether the latest sanctions, which come on top of numerous measures already imposed on Russian entities and individuals, would make a difference, said they had three goals.

First, he said, the United States wanted to “reduce the capacity of the Russian military machine in order to regenerate its ability to threaten Ukraine.” Second, sanctions aimed at “undermining Russia’s main sectors in technology, industry and, of course, defense” so that, over time, “its ability to project power, threaten and coerce its neighbors is reduced.” and wage wars of aggression. .”

Finally, Sullivan said the sanctions are meant to send a message to Russia’s allies that if “you’re going to side with Russia on this issue of illegal annexation, you’re going to submit to sanctions.”

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced another $1.1 billion in military assistance to Ukraine, bringing the total since Russia’s invasion in February to $16.2 billion. Along with a 40-member “contact group” of countries directly aiding Ukraine, the United States promised to continue sending weapons and other assistance for as long as necessary to preserve Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

7 key moments in Putin’s annexation speech

While most nations of the world have condemned Russia’s actions, and even Moscow’s dwindling number of friends have expressed growing concern about its war aims, the administration in recent weeks has launched a new effort to persuade undecideds to directly denounce referendums. and annexation as a violation of the UN Charter.

In a Security Council vote immediately after the invasion, ten countries voted in favor of a condemning resolution that Russia vetoed, while three (China, India and the United Arab Emirates) abstained. In March, 35 of the 193 UN member nations abstained in a non-binding vote condemning Russia’s actions.

While it assumed that Russia would veto Friday’s resolution in the council and that China would likely abstain, the administration was hopeful that there would be no further abstentions in the face of Putin’s annexation declaration.

“We all have an interest in upholding the sacred principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told council members before the vote. “All of us understand the implications for our own borders, our own economies and our own countries if this [these] principles are cast aside.”

“This is what this body is here to do,” he said. “We are the first line of defense for the UN Charter…This is not a time to stand on the sidelines.”

Also speaking before Friday’s vote, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya said it showed that “some of our colleagues on the council have reached a new low.”

Residents of the four Ukrainian regions (Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson) where the organized referendums were held “do not want to return to Ukraine”, he said of the votes that have been widely condemned as illegal and rigged farces. Nebenzya accused the United States of “wringing the arms” of other countries for support.

Accusing the United States of “double standards,” he recalled that US and NATO forces intervened on behalf of Kosovo, in the Balkans, when it sought independence from Russia-backed Serbia in the 1990s. “No referendum was necessary.” Nebenzya said.

At the same time, “Washington, today is the strongest critic of us and talks about the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” he said, “recently declared itself ready to use force to protect Taiwan, an integral part of the People’s Republic of China. .” The reference was to Biden’s repeated statements, later toned down by administration officials, that US forces would help defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.

Nebenzya also criticized UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who has strongly denounced Russia’s actions as immoral and illegal under international law.

When hands went up to vote, the United Arab Emirates joined in approval. India, whose government has recently criticized Russian actions in Ukraine, again abstained. He was joined by Gabon, whose ambassador called for diplomacy and a negotiated settlement of the war, and Brazil, which expressed strong disapproval of the referendums and annexation but said the vote had been rushed without time for ambassadors to consult their capitals.

The Security Council is made up of 15 members, five holding permanent seats with veto power, including Russia, the United States, France, China and Britain, and ten serving rotating two-year terms after being elected by regional groups. No resolution can be passed without the approval of all five permanent members and a total of at least ten votes.

Announcing new measures against Russia on Friday, the Treasury and Commerce departments listed increased sanctions and export control risks for anyone inside or outside Russia who helps the annexation effort. The Treasury also sanctioned 14 international suppliers for supporting Russian military supply chains and appointed an additional 109 members of the State Duma along with 169 members of the Federation Council, the upper and lower houses of the Russian legislature.

The State Department said it was placing visa restrictions on Ochur-Suge Mongush “for a serious human rights violation perpetrated against a Ukrainian prisoner of war.” Mongush has been named in news accounts like a Russian who tortured a Ukrainian prisoner.

Similar restrictions, he said, were being applied to 910 other people, including members of the Russian military, Belarusian military officers and representatives of Russia who violated Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The Treasury also appointed Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina, former Putin adviser and governor of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, as well as Olga Nikolaevna Skorobogatova, first deputy governor of the central bank.

The United States on Friday also sanctioned family members of Russia’s National Security Council members, including the wife and two adult children of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and the wife and adult children of Defense Minister Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu.

Authorities say sanctions on powerful individuals and family members can be particularly effective.

The United States is also working with other countries to increase its sanctions. The European Union on Wednesday announced a new draft of its eighth sanctions law, which includes a proposed price cap on the global purchase of Russian oil. Both Britain and Canada also announced new measures on Friday.

“I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal annexation attempts and to support the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Biden said.



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