US Orders Sanctions on Russia-Backed Separatist Regions of Eastern Ukraine

  • President Joe Biden ordered sanctions on Russia-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
  • The move came after Putin recognized the independence of two separatist regions in eastern Ukraine.
  • They are separate from “the swift and severe economic measures we are prepared to issue with Allies and partners in response to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The White House on Monday ordered sanctions against two Kremlin-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would recognize them as independent states and ordered troops into the regions, signifying a major escalation towards war.

Putin signed a decree on Monday recognizing the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states, rather than parts of Ukraine, drawing swift condemnation from the West and promises to respond quickly.

“President Putin’s action contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements, refutes Russia’s claimed commitment to diplomacy, and rulings Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the White House said in a statement announcing the sanctions.

The White House added the executive order is separate from “the swift and severe economic measures we are prepared to issue with Allies and partners in response to a further Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

The executive order prohibits:

  • New investments in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk by US citizens
  • Importing goods from the regions into the US
  • Exporting goods to the regions from the US or by any US citizen

The executive order also gives the US authority to impose on anyone operating in the regions. It also takes steps to ensure humanitarian efforts in the regions can continue.

“The purpose of this EO is to deny Russia the chance to profit from its blatant violations of international law. These actions are not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government,” the White House statement said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also condemned Putin’s decree in a statement: “Kremlin recognition of the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics’ as ‘independent’ requires a swift and firm response, and we will take appropriate steps in coordination with partners.”

US officials have long warned that Russia would create a pretext for war before launching an invasion. Following Putin’s announcement on Monday, the White House said President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about the US plan to issue sanctions.

Shortly after the decree, Putin ordered Russian troops into Donetsk and Luhansk for a “peacekeeping” operation, the details of which were not immediately clear.

Ukraine has been fighting Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine since 2014. Russia has previously denied having its own troops in the Donbas region, despite evidence of their presence.

Putin’s actions on Monday were condemned by other world leaders as well, including President Emmanuel Macron of France and Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany. A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres also said in a statement he was “greatly concerned” by Russia’s actions in eastern Ukraine.

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