Ukraine crisis: US, UK, other countries to sanction Russia

Measures being rolled out in response to Putin's decree were separate from sanctions the United States and its allies have been readying if Russia invades Ukraine.

US Vice President Joe Biden addresses the session "Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action" during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 19, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS/RUBEN SPRICH)
US Vice President Joe Biden addresses the session "Cancer Moonshot: A Call to Action" during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, January 19, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS/RUBEN SPRICH)

Several countries around the world readied themselves to issue sanctions against Russia over its recognition of the independence of two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

United States

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting "new investment" by Americans, wherever they are located, and the "importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services, or technology from the covered regions."

White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said measures being rolled out in response to Putin's decree were separate from sanctions the United States and its allies have been readying if Russia invades Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the executive order "is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of this blatant violation of international law."

President Vladimir Putin's decision to send troops he called peacemakers into breakaway regions of Ukraine did not as yet constitute a further invasion that would trigger a broader sanctions package, a Biden administration official said on Monday but added that a full invasion could come at any time.

The United States will continue to pursue diplomacy with Russia until "tanks roll," another official said.

The Russian president's recognition of the two breakaway regions as independent and his order to send in troops upped the ante with the West over Ukraine.

The first administration official told Reuters that sending Russian troops into the separatist regions was not a departure from what Moscow had already done, which was why it did not trigger the broader sanctions.

"This isn't a further invasion since it's territory that they've already occupied," he said.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, the official said sending Russian troops into the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine was not new.

"Russian troops moving into Donbas would not itself be a new step. Russia has had forces in the Donbas region for the past eight years... They are currently now making decisions to do this in a more overt and... open way," he said.

"Russia continues to escalate this crisis that it created in the first place," the official said. "We'll continue to pursue diplomacy until the tanks roll, but we are under no illusions about what is likely to come next."

Putin told Russia's defense ministry to deploy troops into the two regions to "keep the peace" in a decree issued shortly after he announced recognition for Russia-backed separatists there.

Biden condemned Putin's decision to recognize the regions.

The officials cast doubt on whether Biden, who agreed in principle to meet with Putin if Russia did not invade Ukraine, would carry through with that given Moscow's actions.

Biden sought in January to clarify what the United States would consider an invasion. "If any, any assembled Russian units move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion," he said. 

Syria

Syria supports the decision of its ally Russia to recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, Syrian state TV quoted its foreign minister as saying on Tuesday.

The United States and its European allies are set to announce fresh sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after Putin recognized the two breakaway regions, deepening Western fears of a new war in Europe.

"Syria supports President Vladimir Putin's decision to recognize the republics of Luhansk and Donetsk and will cooperate with them," state TV quoted Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad as saying during an event in Moscow.

Syria has been a staunch ally of Moscow since Russia launched an air strike campaign in Syria in 2015 and helped turn the tide in a civil war in favor of President Bashar Assad.

"What the West is doing against Russia is similar to what it did against Syria during the terrorist war," Mekdad said.

European Union

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said European Union countries have agreed to impose a limited set of sanctions "targeting those who are responsible" for Russia's recognition of the rebel regions.

 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City (credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ/POOL) British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York City (credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ/POOL)

United Kingdom

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will agree to a package of immediate sanctions against Russia at an 0630 GMT meeting of the government's crisis response committee (COBR) on Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

"We will immediately institute a package of economic sanctions," Johnson told reporters Tuesday morning.

They would be "targeted not just at entities in Donbass and Luhansk and Donetsk, but in Russia itself - targeting Russian economic interests as hard as we can," he said.

Putin will find he has "gravely miscalculated" if Russia invades Ukraine, Johnson said, adding that Moscow appeared to be bent on a full-scale invasion.

"I think that the tragedy of the present situation is that President Putin has surrounded himself with like-minded advisors who tell him that Ukraine is not a proper country. And I think that he is going to find that he has gravely miscalculated," Johnson told reporters after the meeting.

Canada

Canada condemns Russia's decision to recognize two eastern Ukrainian regions controlled by separatists as independent and will impose sanctions in response, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Monday.

"Canada, with its partners and allies, will react firmly to this blatant disregard for international law," Joly said in a statement. "We are preparing to impose economic sanctions for these actions, separate from those prepared to respond to any further military invasion of Ukraine by Russia."

Australia

Australia condemns Russia's decision to recognize two regions in Ukraine controlled by separatists as independent and will be in lockstep with its allies on any sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.

Poland

Polish President Andrzej Duda said that severe sanctions on Russia were needed after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine.

Duda, speaking after consultations with government ministers on the Ukraine crisis, also called for a further reinforcement of NATO's eastern flank.

Japan

Japan said it stood ready to join the United States and other G7 industrialized nations in slapping sanctions on Russia, should Putin order an invasion of Ukraine.

Ordering troops into eastern Ukraine's breakaway regions was "unacceptable and a violation of international law," Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters, calling Putin on Thursday to urge restraint. Japan was ready for a strong response that could include sanctions, he said.

New sanctions by Japan, which would add to those imposed on Russia in 2014 after it occupied the Crimea, would include a ban on semiconductor chips and other key technology exports and tighter restrictions on Russian banks, the Yomiuri newspaper reported earlier.

Although Japan is no longer a major exporter of semiconductors, with only a 10% share of the global chip market, it is a key manufacturer of specialized electronic components, such as automotive chips and image sensors, and dominates in other industrial fields, such as hi-tech manufacturing equipment.

Kishida and other government officials who spoke on Tuesday did not say what sanctions Japan was mulling.

Tokyo's toughening stance against Moscow contrasts with the softer diplomatic approach taken by Japanese administrations in the past. They have courted Putin in an attempt to secure the return of islands occupied by Russian forces at the end of World War II.

Japan's delicate diplomacy has also been shaped by its reliance on Moscow for some of its energy needs. In 2021, Russia provided more than 12% of Japan's thermal coal, and almost a tenth of its liquefied natural gas.

That economic anguish, however, has been overtaken in recent years by growing concern about a revival in Russian military activity in East Asia and Moscow's deepening security cooperation with neighboring China.

“Ukraine is facing a tense situation now, so we must firmly watch how it could affect Japan’s economy,” Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki said at a briefing on Tuesday.

Nicaragua

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega became one of the first world leaders to back Russia's stance over Ukraine on Monday, saying President Vladimir Putin was right to recognize two regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatists as independent.

The former Marxist guerrilla, who has led Nicaragua since 2007 after having first come to power in 1979, defended Putin's move to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk during a speech in Managua.

"I am sure that if they do a referendum like the one carried out in Crimea, people will vote to annex the territories to Russia," said Ortega, a long-time opponent of US influence in Central America.

The Nicaraguan president also said Ukraine's attempt to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) represented a threat to Russia.

“If Ukraine gets into NATO they will be saying to Russia let's go to war, and that explains why Russia is acting like this," he said. "Russia is simply defending itself."