US President Joe Biden has said that the United States would impose financial penalties on Russia because of its deployment of troops into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, which Moscow has already recognized as independent republics.
Biden said on Tuesday that the US would sanction Russian sovereign debt and Russian elites as well as their family members.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday recognized the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics as independent and afterward ordered troops into the Donbas region.
Biden called Russia’s actions in Donetsk and Lugansk, collectively known as the Donbas, the “beginning of an “invasion.”
On Tuesday, Russian lawmakers approved a request by Putin to use military force outside of Russia.
“He is setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view,” Biden said of Putin in remarks from the East Room. “This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
“To put it simply, Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden added.
Biden said that the sanctions were an initial response to Russian actions and added his administration would impose further sanctions if Moscow engaged in a broader invasion of Ukraine.
“If Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions,” Biden said.
The US president claimed that the sanctions on Russian sovereign debt would cut off the Russian government from Western financing.
Biden also said his administration is trying to ensure that Americans are not deeply affected by the sanctions on Russia.
“I want to limit the pain the American people are feeling at the gas pump,” he said. “This is critical to me.”
Biden said his administration was monitoring energy supplies for any disruption and working to ensure stability.
Despite Putin’s actions, Biden said he hopes the door for diplomacy is still open to avert an escalating crisis.
“When all is said and done, we’re going to judge Russia by its actions, not its words,” he said. “And whatever Russia does next, we’re ready to respond with unity, clarity and conviction.”
“We’ll probably have more to say about this as he moves on,” the US president added. “I’m hoping diplomacy is still available.”
Putin on Monday signed a decree recognizing the breakaway Lugansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine as independent republics and instructed Russia's Defense Ministry to deploy peacekeeping troops to the two regions.
Donetsk and Lugansk regions were turned into self-proclaimed republics by its ethnic Russian residents in 2014, which triggered a violent conflict between government forces and the secessionists.
The conflict worsened following a wave of protests in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of a democratically-elected pro-Russia government, which was later replaced with a pro-West administration.
President Putin had earlier warned that the US was deliberately designing a scenario to lure Russia into a war over Ukraine.
Speaking after the Russian parliament's move to grant him permission to use the army outside the country, Putin said the Western-brokered peace agreements seeking to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine no longer existed.
"The Minsk agreements do not exist now, we recognized the DNR and LNR," Putin said, using the abbreviations for the separatist regions in Donetsk and Lugansk.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would act as a guarantor of the security and integrity of the two breakaway republics in Donetsk and Lugansk.