National News
Updated February 22, 2022 at 2:43 PM ET

Russia’s decision to order troops into parts of eastern Ukraine is “the beginning of a Russian invasion,” President Biden said Tuesday as he announced a new set of sweeping sanctions targeting Russia’s ability to do business with the West.

The moves by Russia have triggered 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.

Speaking from the East Room of the White House, Biden called Putin’s decree a “flagrant violation of international law.”

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.

If it becomes operational, Nord Stream 2 would transport natural gas from Russia directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The $11 billion pipeline would have an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of natural gas. The Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom is the project’s sole shareholder.

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