US slaps on new sanctions against Russia

The status of negotiations was unclear • New sanctions were issued against Russia and Belarus

A woman reacts as she attends an anti-war protest outside the Russian Embassy, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bogota, Colombia March 1, 2022 (photo credit: LUISA GONZALEZ/REUTERS)
A woman reacts as she attends an anti-war protest outside the Russian Embassy, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bogota, Colombia March 1, 2022

The US issued further sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, according to the White House's official website. The sanctions include preventing the diversion of technological resources to Russia through Belarus; further sanctions against Russia's defense sector, control of the export of oil and gas extraction equipment; adding entities involved with Russia and Belarus to the Entity List; and closing US skies to Russia.

While talks between Russia and Ukraine were set to resume on Wednesday, the status of the negotiations was unclear as of Wednesday afternoon, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continued for a seventh day.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that Kyiv is ready for a second round of negotiations, but not for the adoption of ultimatums, adding that it is still unclear when the next round of talks will be, according to Ukrinform.

Russia's foreign minister stated on Wednesday that Russia is ready for a second round of negotiations with Ukraine, but that Kyiv is delaying the process on request of the US. Yury Voskresensky, a Belarusian politician, stated that there has been no contact with the Ukrainian delegation since Tuesday and that they have turned off their phones, according to TASS.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, stated on Wednesday afternoon that talks could resume by the end of the day, but that consultations were still ongoing, according to Ukrinform.

Read more on the Russia-Ukraine War:

 Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on Russia's military operation in Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2022. (credit: Presidency of Ukraine/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference on Russia's military operation in Ukraine, Feb. 25, 2022. (credit: Presidency of Ukraine/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Asked about the date for a second round of talks since Russia invaded its neighbor last week, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters on Wednesday that "It's under discussion for now. A substantial agenda is needed."

Sanctions continue to hit Russia

The United States closed its airspace to Russian planes as the Russian military attempted to encircle and subdue Ukrainian cities with intensifying bombardments on Wednesday, seven days into an invasion that has sparked massive international sanctions.

During his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, US President Joe Biden announced that America would be closing its air space to all Russian flights.

"We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever," said Biden.

The president also mentioned that the US Department of Justice was assembling a dedicated task force to target the crimes of Russian oligarchs. "Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: no more. We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, your private jets – we are coming for your ill-begotten gains."

Biden stressed that he is working to ensure sanctions placed on Russia do not harm the American economy, announcing that the US is working with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world. The US will release 30 million barrels from its own Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

The rouble plunged to a record low in Moscow of 110 to the dollar on Wednesday and the stock market remained closed as Russia's financial system staggered under the weight of Western sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

The rouble was 7.3% weaker on the day at 108.60 against the dollar as of 0941 GMT in Moscow trade RUBUTSTN=MCX, earlier hitting 110.0, an all-time low. It has lost about a third of its value against the dollar since the start of the year.

The Russian currency had shed 7.1% on Wednesday to trade at 120.50 to the euro EURRUBTN=MCX.

For the third day in a row, the rouble was weaker outside Russia, trading at 115 to the dollar RUB=EBS on the EBS electronic trading platform, but still off the all-time low of 120 hit on Monday.

Alphabet Inc's Google said on Tuesday that it has blocked mobile apps connected to RT and Sputnik from its Play store, in line with an earlier move to remove the Russian state publishers from its news-related features.

The European Union is excluding seven Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system that underpins global transactions as part of its sanctions over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU official journal said on Wednesday.

The banks, which will be given 10 days to wind-down their SWIFT operations, are Russia's second-largest bank VTB VTBR.MM, along with Bank Otrkitie, Novikombank, Promsvyazbank PSKBI.MM, Bank Rossiya, Sovcombank and VEB.

A senior EU official explained that the banks on its list were chosen based on their connections to the Russian state, with public banks already subject to sanctions following Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.

European Union diplomats have approved new sanctions against Belarus for its supporting role in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the French presidency of the EU said on Wednesday.

They also approved new sanctions against Belarusian people who are playing a role in the attacks against Ukraine, the presidency said on Twitter.

Sanctions will also hit "some economic sectors, and in particular timber, steel and potash," it said in a statement.

Nations around the world promise aid

During his State of the Union address, Biden added that the US is providing over $1 billion in direct assistance to Ukraine, but emphasized that US forces would not engage in the conflict in the besieged county.

"Let me be clear, our forces are not engaged and will not engage in conflict with Russian forces in Ukraine," said Biden. "Our forces are not going to Europe to fight in Ukraine, but to defend our NATO Allies – in the event that Putin decides to keep moving west."

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday that she, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang will each donate one month's salary to help with humanitarian relief efforts for Ukraine.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated on Wednesday that the country has received new Turkish Bayraktar drones and will receive more Stingers and Javelins.

European nations backtracked on promises to provide fighter jets to Ukraine on Tuesday, with Poland, Bulgaria and Slovakia, which were reportedly providing the aircraft, denying that they would be doing so, according to Politico.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who initially promised the jets, stated on Monday that the EU did not have sufficient financial means to pay for the aircraft.

Despite concerns expressed by the West that implementing a no-fly zone over Ukraine would pull Western nations into a conflict with Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that he does not believe that this is the case.

"I believe that leaders should support democracies across the world who are willing to uphold such principles, so this aid, this powerful assistance regarding the no-fly zone, would be very helpful," said Zelensky, according to Ukrinform. "It is not about dragging NATO into the war. To be honest, everyone has long been dragged into this war, and certainly not by Ukraine but by Russia."

Wizz Air announced on Tuesday night that it would be offering 100,000 free flight tickets departing from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania for Ukrainian refugees.

Over 450,000 people entered Poland from Ukraine since a Russian invasion of the country started last Thursday, Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker told private Radio Zet on Wednesday.

He added that the number of people entering Poland fell slightly on Tuesday to 98,000 from a record number of over 100,000 on Monday.