Biden sanctions Donbas separatists after Putin recognition

President Joe Biden sanctioned the self-proclaimed breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbas region on Monday after his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, announced that he recognized their independence from Ukraine.

The sanctions on those two regions are just a first step, as Washington and its allies plan to impose new economic punishments on Russia “as soon as tomorrow, Tuesday,” a senior US official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For now, Biden has signed an executive order banning new investment, trade, and other economic transactions by US institutions and citizens in Donetsk and Lugansk, a move that is intended to isolate those two regions from the dollar-based international financial system.

The executive order also prohibits the importation into the US of goods, services, or technology from Donetsk and Lugansk, according to the text made public by the White House.

Despite Putin’s decision, who also ordered the deployment of Russian soldiers in Donetsk and Lugansk to “guarantee peace”, Washington failed to announce on Monday the large package of economic sanctions against Russia that it has been preparing with its allies for weeks.

Asked about this, the aforementioned official argued that the incursion of Russian soldiers into Donbas is not “necessarily” something new because, according to Washington, the Russian Armed Forces have been supporting the pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine since 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea.

According to the official, the US strategy right now is to “observe” and “evaluate” the actions that Russia takes in the next few hours before making any decision.

COORDINATION WITH ALLIES

Meanwhile, the other key to the US strategy is to keep communication open with its allies in Europe to present a common front against Putin.

This tactic was made clear on Monday when Biden, who was in a meeting all day at the White House with his national security team, spoke by phone for 35 minutes with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, and spoke for another 30 with his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The calls came after Putin’s televised speech, who at the end of his speech signed the decrees that recognize the independence of the two breakaway regions.

According to the White House, Biden reiterated to Zelensky his commitment to the “sovereignty” of Ukraine and promised that Washington will respond “quickly”, “decisively” and in “unison” with its allies to any Russian aggression.

Also, in a three-way call, Biden, Macron, and Scholz “strongly” condemned Putin’s decision and talked about how they will coordinate to see what the next steps are, the White House explained without offering more details.

WASHINGTON SEES DIPLOMACY IN DANGER

In all the calls, the condemnation of the US Administration was “strong” and of the “greatest force”, according to the language used by the White House and the State Department.

The Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, came to consider in a statement that Putin’s decision “directly contradicts Russia’s supposed commitment to diplomacy”, represents a “clear attack” on Ukraine’s sovereignty and a “total rejection” of Moscow’s commitments to the 2015 Minsk Peace Accords, which, among other things, established a fragile ceasefire.

Blinken is scheduled to meet on Thursday in Geneva with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to among other things prepare a possible summit between Biden and Putin.

Washington has said that this summit will only take place if Moscow does not take military action against Ukraine, so the summit could be in danger in view of the events of the last few hours, the aforementioned official told the press.

USA SEND ITS DIPLOMATS TO POLAND

Meanwhile, given the escalation of tension, the US decided to send its diplomats in Ukraine to Poland.

The move was taken for “security reasons” and “in no way” undermines Washington’s support for Ukraine, Blinken said in a statement.

Those diplomats were in western Ukraine’s largest city, Lviv (Lviv), as the US had already temporarily moved its embassy to that location from the capital, Kiev.

In any case, the group of diplomats that was transferred to Poland tonight is small because the United States already ordered this month the departure from Ukraine of the non-essential personnel of its embassy and the suspension of consular services.

Tensions between Kiev and Moscow have increased since last November, after Russia stationed tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border, triggering alarms in Ukraine and the West, which denounced the preparations for an invasion.

The situation has worsened in recent hours with clashes in eastern Ukraine.

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