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Allies join U.S. in imposing sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine

President Biden speaks about Ukraine at the White House on Tuesday. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin recognition of breakaway republics in two Ukrainian oblasts is a "flagrant violation of international law."
Alex Brandon
President Biden speaks about Ukraine at the White House on Tuesday. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin recognition of breakaway republics in two Ukrainian oblasts is a "flagrant violation of international law."

Updated February 22, 2022 at 12:30 PM ET

Russia's decision to order troops into parts of eastern Ukraine is triggering punishments from the U.S., the U.K. and the EU, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognizing breakaway republics in two Ukrainian oblasts: Donetsk and Luhansk.

President Biden will deliver a speech addressing the Ukraine crisis and Russia at 1 p.m. ET, the White House said.

Watch Biden's remarks live:

Western governments have raised concerns about Russia expanding the force and scope of their operations under the guise of a humanitarian mission. The Kremlin has routinely — and falsely — compared the plight of Russian speakers in these areas to genocide.

"Russia's aggression against Ukraine is illegal and unacceptable," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said via Twitter. She added that the EU is "united in its support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Here's a rundown of where things currently stand:

The U.S. is calling this an invasion

"Because Russia has now taken a step to launch its latest invasion of Ukraine," the U.S. and its allies are imposing sanctions in response, Jon Finer, principal deputy national security adviser, said on Morning Edition Tuesday.

Despite Russia's incremental, legalistic approach to seizing more land and property from Ukraine, following its 2014 illegal annexation of Crimea, Finer and other White House officials said there is no doubt that what is happening is an invasion.

"We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia's latest invasion into Ukraine," Finer said, according to the Associated Press. "An invasion is an invasion and that is what is underway."

Russia gives Putin the formal OK to send military beyond borders

Russia's Federation Council formally granted Putin the power to deploy forces outside the country's borders — a move the country's upper chamber linked to the deployment of what the Kremlin described as "peacekeepers" to Donetsk and Luhansk.

The council approved a resolution backing Putin's plan to deploy Russian forces shortly after it unanimously ratified two quickly arranged treaties Tuesday between Russia and the two breakaway regions.

The lawmakers' approval gives Putin further legislative cover to possibly expand the Russian military's action beyond the two so-called "independent" republics in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

The U.K. puts sanctions on five Russian banks and three people

"Today, the U.K. is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank. And we are sanctioning three very high net worth individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the House of Commons.

"Any assets they hold in the U.K. will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from traveling here, and we will prohibit all U.K. individuals and entities from having any dealings with them," the prime minister added. More sanctions are ready to be deployed, he said.

Johnson said Putin deemed the rationale Putin presented for acting against Ukraine in a long speech on Monday "absurd and even mystical reasons" for an international crisis.

"We will not allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and might is right," Johnson said. "And it is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin's venture in Ukraine must fail."

Germany halts Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

One of the main bargaining chips in the dispute over Ukraine and NATO is the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is slated to bring Russian natural gas into Germany. The new service is set to start operations later this year — but after Putin's action, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered his government to halt certification of the pipeline.

"These are difficult hours for Europe," Scholz said, according to a translation posted by Bloomberg News. "Almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War, we might see a new war in Eastern Europe. It is our task to avert such a disaster, and I call on Russia to contribute their fair share."

Germany is now looking at other ways to satisfy its energy demands, Scholz said.

"Nord Stream 2 is an underwater twin pipeline that would transport natural gas from Russia directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea," NPR's Rob Schmitz reported. "The $11 billion pipeline would have an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas, and Russian energy giant Gazprom is the project's sole shareholder."
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.
Peter Granitz