Ukraine-Russia Crisis Updates: Biden Announces Sanctions Over Russian 'Aggression'

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A Ukrainian serviceman walks along a trench in the Luhansk region, Tuesday.
A Ukrainian serviceman walks along a trench in the Luhansk region, Tuesday.Credit: Anatolii STEPANOV / AFP
Updates
Reuters

New images show military deployments are continuing in Belarus

A satellite image shows a close up of assembled vehicles at V D Bolshoy Bokov airfield, near Mazyr, Belarus, on Tuesday.Credit: Reuters/Maxar Technologies

Satellite images show a new deployment of more than 100 military vehicles and dozens of troop tents in southern Belarus near the Ukraine border, a private U.S. company said on Tuesday.

The images released by Maxar Technologies, which has been tracking the buildup of Russian forces for weeks, could not be independently verified by Reuters.

The images also showed a new field hospital has been added to a military garrison in western Russia close to the border with Ukraine, Maxar said in a statement.

The Associated Press

Blinken calls off Geneva meeting with Russian FM

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he has cancelled plans to meet his Russian counterpart in Geneva later this week as Russia presses ahead with recognition of separatist regions of Ukraine.

Blinken told reporters on Tuesday that Russia’s actions indicated Moscow was not serious about a diplomatic path to resolving the crisis. As a result, he said he had called off his Thursday meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Echoing President Joe Biden, Blinken said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of Ukraine’s Donbass region was a violation of international law. And, he said the placement of Russian troops there constituted the beginning of an invasion.

Although he held out hope for a peaceful resolution through diplomacy, he said he did not believe a meeting with Lavrov would be productive at this time.

Reuters

Ukrainian president calls up reservists, launches program of 'economic patriotism'

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Tuesday said he was calling up reservists for a special period but ruled out a general mobilization after Russia announced it was moving troops into eastern Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said he was still pursuing diplomatic ways out of the crisis and welcomed Turkey's willingness to participate in multilateral talks, but said Ukraine would not cede any territory to Russia.

Addressing the nation after a cross-party meeting in parliament, Zelenskiy announced a program of "economic patriotism" that included incentivizing local production and value added tax cuts on gasoline.

Samuel Sokol is a freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. He was previously a correspondent at the Jerusalem Post and has reported for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Times of Israel. He is the author of Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews.

Jewish leaders brace for food shortages, antisemitic provocations

With Russian troops moving into eastern Ukraine following Moscow’s official recognition of two breakaway separatist enclaves on Monday evening, local Jewish leaders have expressed concern not only that their constituents could be displaced by renewed fighting, but that the Kremlin may attempt to use antisemitic provocations to delegitimize their country.

Speaking to Haaretz from the eastern city of Dnipro, Rabbi Meir Stambler, the chairman of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Ukraine, said that he is more worried about the possibility of antisemitic provocations carried out by Russian agents than a full-scale war.

“We were never concerned about security, but now we are worried that the situation might change, so that’s why we are working on safety precautions for all the rabbis, communities, schools and synagogues,” Stambler told Haaretz. “They want to [accuse] Ukrainians of being antisemites or fascists."

>> Click here to read the full report

Reuters

Biden announces sanctions on Russian banks, individuals

U.S. President Joe Biden announced a "first tranche" of sanctions targeting two Russian banks and several Russian individuals, warning the Moscow will "pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression."

"He's setting up a rationale to take more territory by force," Biden said of Russian President Vladimir Putin at the White House.

"I'm going to begin to impose sanctions in response, far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014," he added, in a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Sanctions are being applied to VEB bank and Russia's military bank, referring to Promsvyazbank, which does defense deals, Biden said.

Starting on Wednesday, U.S. sanctions will begin against Russian elites and their family members.The hit to Russia's sovereign debt meant the Russian government would be cut off from Western financing, according to Biden.

Students try bulletproof vests and escape drills in east Ukraine

Students in the eastern city of Kharkiv are learning about bulletproof vests and explosives as well as practicing evacuation drills and first aid as Ukraine prepares for a possible big assault by the Russian military.

The city, which is under Ukrainian government control, is home to tank, aircraft and tractor factories and lies 40 km (25 miles) from the Russian border.

It has been identified by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a possible Russian target, though his spokesman said he was speaking hypothetically.

"We have started giving those drills for children more often to prevent situations such as children getting injured, or, God forbid, death," civilian defense specialist Oleksandr Shevchuk said."We ... let them try on our uniforms, bulletproof vests and helmets. Show them what explosive items can be, so that they can become aware of situations that may happen to them."

Reuters

Russia says it will evacuate its diplomats from Ukraine

Russia has made a decision to evacuate its diplomatic staff from Ukraine, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

"Our first priority is to take care of Russian diplomats and employees of the Embassy and Consulates General. To protect their lives and safety, the Russian leadership decided to evacuate staff of Russian missions in Ukraine, which will be implemented in the very near future," it said in a statement.

Reuters

NATO chief sees 'every indication' Russia still planning full-scale assault on Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that the alliance believed that Russia still planning a big assault on Ukraine following Moscow's recognition of two separatist regions in the former Soviet republic's east.

He spoke as the West took more measures to try to discourage Russian from going on the offensive in Ukraine, with Germany putting the brakes on a new gas pipeline and Britain hitting Russian banks with sanctions.

"Every indication is that Russia is continuing to plan for a full-scale attack of Ukraine," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels. "We continue to call on Russia to step back ... it's never too late not to attack."

Reuters

EU to sanction Russian individuals and entities over Ukraine

European Union foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to sanction 27 Russians and entities after Moscow recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, as well banks, the defense sector and limiting Russian access to European capital markets.

All members of Russia's Duma, parliament's lower house, will be hit with EU sanctions, which typically involve travel bans and asset freezes.

"This package of sanctions that has been approved by unanimity by the member states will hurt Russia, and it will hurt a lot," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference alongside France's foreign minister at a meeting in Paris.

The Associated Press

Putin calls for recognition of Crimea as Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for international recognition of Crimea as part of Russia, an end to Ukraine’s NATO membership bid and a halt to weapons shipments there.

Putin claimed Tuesday that Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula should be internationally recognized as a legitimate reflection of the local population’s choice, likening it to a vote for Kosovo independence.

To end the current crisis, he also called for the renunciation of Ukraine’s NATO bid, saying it should assume a “neutral status,” and said that the West should stop sending weapons there.

Reuters

Putin says Ukraine's Minsk peace process is finished, blames Kyiv

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that the Minsk peace agreement on Ukraine no longer existed and that there was nothing left to fulfill, but he blamed Kyiv instead of Moscow for killing it off.

He also said that Moscow had recognized the two breakaway republics within the boundaries of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions, swathes of which are controlled by Ukrainian government forces.

Reuters

Russian lawmakers unanimously back Putin request to deploy troops

Russia's upper house of parliament unanimously voted on Tuesday to approve a request by President Vladimir Putin to deploy Russia's armed forces abroad for what it described as a peacekeeping mission in two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine.

The decision takes immediate effect, one of the lawmakers said as they discussed the motion.

Reuters

Putin ratifies treaties allowing troop deployment in breakaway regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified friendship treaties with two Moscow-backed Ukrainian breakaway republics on Tuesday, the Kremlin said.

Russia has said the step allows it to build military bases there, deploy troops, agree a joint defense posture and tighten economic integration. The move comes amid a crisis over a huge Russian military buildup near Ukraine that has fuelled fears of an invasion, which Moscow denies planning.

Reuters

Putin seeks permission from lawmakers to use troops abroad

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday asked the upper house of parliament for permission to use Russia's armed forces abroad after formally recognizing two eastern Ukrainian regions, the chamber's speaker said.

Addressing the chamber during a part of an evening session that was broadcast on the chamber's website, one of Russia's deputy defense ministers said that Russia had been left with no choice, and asked to approve a deployment abroad.

Reuters

Ukraine says partners are 'finally' listening on Russia sanctions, will ask for more weapons

Ukraine is cautiously optimistic that its allies are finally listening to Kyiv about the need to impose sanctions on Russia and that Russia had been wrong-footed by being sanctioned sooner than expected, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a briefing, Kuleba said he would have more talks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and that separately he had contacted Britain and other countries with additional requests for weapons.

The Associated Press

White House sees Russian 'invasion' in Ukraine

The White House has begun referring to Russian troop deployments in eastern Ukraine as an “invasion” after initially hesitating to use the term — a red line that President Joe Biden has said would result in the U.S. levying severe sanctions against Moscow.

Jon Finer, the principal deputy national security adviser, said Tuesday: “We think this is, yes, the beginning of an invasion, Russia’s latest invasion into Ukraine." He said “latest” was important — “an invasion is an invasion and that is what is under way.”

The White House decided to begin referring to Russia’s actions as an “invasion” because of the situation on the ground, according to a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

The administration resisted initially calling the deployment of troops because the White House wanted to see what Russia was actually going to do. The official added that, after assessing Russian troop movements, it became clear it was a new invasion.

Reuters

Russian lawmakers told to return for unscheduled evening session

Russia's upper house of parliament told lawmakers to reconvene at 3 P.M. GMT on Tuesday for their session to continue following a break, an unusual move after they voted to formally recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine.

It was not clear what they planned to discuss. The session comes amid Western fears that Russia, which has massed forces near Ukraine, could invade. Moscow has denied such plans.

"Dear colleagues, a break is announced in our hearing now until 1800 (1500 GMT). Please do not leave and reconvene in the hall at 1800 to continue our meeting," house speaker Valentina Matviyenko, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, said.

The Interfax news agency said it was the first time in several years that a break of that kind had been called and that the chamber had finished its planned work for Tuesday.

The Associated Press

U.K. to sanction Russian banks, individuals

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says Britain is slapping sanctions on five Russian banks and three wealthy individuals over Russia’s latest military moves on Ukraine.

Johnson told lawmakers that sanctions would hit Rossiya Bank, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
He said three Russian oligarchs with interests in energy and infrastructure – Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg – will have their assets frozen and be banned from traveling to the U.K.

All three have already been sanctioned by the United States.

Johnson accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of “establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive” against Ukraine and said “further powerful sanctions” would follow if that happened.

“This the first tranche, the first barrage of what we are prepared to do and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed,” Johnson told British lawmakers.

He also said that Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers have been spotted in the separatist Ukrainian regions recognized as independent by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that amounts to “a renewed invasion” of Ukraine.

Reuters

U.K. believes Russian recognition of breakaway regions could be precursor to invasion of Ukraine

Russia's decision to formally recognize two breakaway regions of Ukraine and send troops there may be a precursor to invasion, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said on Tuesday.

Britain welcomed Germany's decision to halt the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, the spokesman said.

"We believe that Russia's actions overnight could well be a precursor to a full-scale invasion, but clearly we want to continue to pursue any diplomatic avenues that exist, and we'll be speaking to other world leaders,” the spokesman said.

DPA

Germany halts approval of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday that a key document required for the certification of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline would be withdrawn, making approval of the pipeline impossible.

Scholz said in Berlin that he had asked the Economy Ministry to withdraw its existing report on the analysis of supply security.
“This sounds technical, but it is a necessary administrative legal step, without which no certification of the pipeline can take place,” he said.

The pipeline would therefore not be able to go into operation, he said.
There will be a new assessment of the security of gas supplies from Nord Stream 2, taking into account "what has changed in the past few days," Scholz said.

Jonathan Lis

Israeli Embassy staff successfully evacuated from Kyiv

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke with the Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine, Michael Brodsky, as well as the embassy staff following their successful evacuation from Kyiv and arrival in the city of Lviv.

The embassy staff has joined the staff of the temporary Consular Office which was established in Lviv last week, and will continue to provide assistance to Israelis in need.

Speaking with the ambassador and embassy staff, Lapid emphasized that the preservation of Israel's emissaries and citizens in Ukraine, as well as the large Jewish community in the country, are the top priorities of the State of Israel.

Reuters

U.S. troops to arrive in Bulgaria for training as Russia-Ukraine tensions inrease

Up to 150 U.S. troops and military equipment will be arriving in Bulgaria this week for joint training amid escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.

On Monday Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine and has since ordered the deployment of troops there, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe.

The U.S. soldiers and armored vehicles will be crossing from into Bulgaria from Romania on Tuesday and Thursday to take part in the training aimed at boosting troops' interoperability, the ministry said in a statement. Under a deal with NATO ally Bulgaria, the United States can keep up to 2,500 U.S. troops at several joint bases in the Black Sea country.

Last week Defense Minister Stefan Yanev said a U.S. army Stryker company will be at Novo Selo military base in eastern Bulgaria for joint training.

Reuters

Ukraine recalls senior diplomat from Moscow

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday it had recalled a senior Ukrainian diplomat from Moscow for consultations.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier on Tuesday Kyiv might break off diplomatic relations with Russia after Moscow decided to recognize two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent.

Reuters

Ukraine may break off diplomatic ties with Russia

Ukraine may break off diplomatic relations with Russia after Moscow decided to recognize two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at a briefing on Tuesday.

Speaking alongside his Estonian counterpart, Zelenskyy said he was weighing a request from his foreign ministry to break off ties. He also urged Ukraine's allies not to wait for a further escalation to impose sanctions, which he said should include shutting down the Russian-led Nord Stream 2 pipeline, awaiting approval to carry Russian gas under the Baltic Sea to Germany.

"I've received a request from the foreign ministry. I will consider the issue of severing diplomatic relations between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Immediately after our press conference, I will consider this issue,” Zelenskyy said.

Putin's announcement on Monday, and his signing of a decree on the deployment of Russian troops to the two breakaway regions, drew international condemnation and immediate U.S. sanctions, with President Joe Biden signing an executive order to halt U.S. business activity in the breakaway regions. The United States and its European allies were set to announce fresh sanctions against Russia on Tuesday.

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haaretz-weekly-new

Not just Ukraine: 'Putin uses Iran to make America look weak' | LISTEN

As war gets closer in Ukraine, signs of progress are being reported from Vienna, where Iran and world powers are discussing a new nuclear agreement. Is a new deal actually within reach, and will it be a weaker, more dangerous agreement as Israeli officials have been warning? Nuclear historian Avner Cohen joins the podcast to answer these questions, and also to explain how Putin is using the Iran card against America, and why China won't mind if Iran becomes a nuclear threshold state.

Not just Ukraine: 'Putin uses Iran to make America look weak.' LISTEN

Reuters

Syria supports Putin's recognition of Ukraine breakaway regions

Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad attends a news conference following talks with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia on Monday.Credit: RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY/ REUT

Syria supports the decision of its ally Russia to recognize two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, Syrian state TV quoted 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," the 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 al-Assad.

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

Anshel Pfeffer

Ukraine crisis: Putin shows the world his alternative reality | Analysis

Russian President Vladimir Putin began his televised address Monday night, when he announced his recognition of two separatist republics in Ukraine, with a lengthy history lecture on the “creation” of Ukraine as an artificial construct to serve the needs of the Bolshevik leaders a century ago. He then went on to another disquisition on the circumstances of the disintegration of the Soviet Union over 30 years ago.

Putin’s history lesson clarified, for those who did not yet realize it, that he lives in a revisionist historical reality of his own and that he’s determined, while there’s still a breath in his body, to turn back time until his narrative is reality.

Read full analysis here

Reuters

Ukrainian separatists say Kyiv repsonsible for blast that killed three

A Russian-backed separatist official in eastern Ukraine accused Ukrainian saboteurs on Tuesday of detonating a mine on a road in the breakaway region that killed three civilians, Interfax news agency reported.

The separatist official did not provide evidence and there was no immediate comment from Ukraine. Kyiv has repeatedly denied similar allegations and accused the separatists and Russia of deliberately circulating fakes.

Reuters

Ukraine reports two soldiers killed, 12 wounded in separatist shelling

The Ukrainian military on Tuesday said two soldiers have been killed and 12 wounded in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine in the past 24 hours, the most casualties this year, as ceasefire violations increase.

The military said on its Facebook page it had recorded 84 cases of shelling by separatists who it said had opened fire on about 40 settlements along the front line using heavy artillery.

Ukraine has accused Russia of provoking the violence, saying Moscow used it as a pretext to formally recognize eastern Ukraine as independent and move its troops into the region, precipitating a crisis that the West fears could unleash a major war.

Two children walk in the city of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine, on Monday.Credit: ARIS MESSINIS - AFP

Reuters

Putin orders troops to breakaway Ukraine regions after recognizing independence

President Vladimir Putin ordered his defense ministry to despatch Russian peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine's two breakaway regions, according to a decree published early on Tuesday after he said Moscow would recognize their independence.

Putin earlier signed decrees to recognize the two breakaway regions – the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and the Lugansk People's Republic – as independent statelets, defying Western warnings that such a step would be illegal and kill off long-running peace negotiations.

Russia has acquired the right to build military bases in Ukraine's two breakaway regions under new agreements with their separatist leaders, according to a copy of an agreement signed by Putin.

Russia and the breakaway regions also plan to sign separate agreements on military cooperation and protection of borders, according to draft laws that Russia's State Duma lower house of parliament will consider on Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

Jonathan Lis

Israel shuts Kyiv embassy, moves diplomats in Ukraine to western city of Lviv

Border guards stand at a checkpoint from territory controlled by Russia-backed separatists to the territory controlled by Ukrainian forces in Novotroitske, eastern Ukraine, on Monday.Credit: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

Israel will close its Kyiv embassy and move its remaining diplomats in Ukraine to Lviv, the Foreign Ministry announced on Monday, amid fears of an impending Russian invasion.

The Foreign Ministry said the Lviv office, near the Polish border in the country's west, began issuing passports and travel documents for Israelis seeking to leave the country last week.

It will also provide assistance to those seeking to travel by land to one of the countries neighboring Ukraine.

Despite the Foreign Ministry's efforts to convince more Israelis to leave Ukraine, so far just over 3,000 Israeli citizens have flown back out of the estimated 10,000 to 15,000 previously living in the country, and demand for rescue flights over the past few days has been very low.

On Sunday and Monday, only about 10 Israelis asked the embassy to help them leave.

This comes a week after the U.S. State Department's announcement regarding the closure of the embassy in Kyiv.

About a week and a half ago, Israel began evacuating families of diplomats, and it issued a travel warning urging Israelis to avoid Ukraine.

On Monday, Putin signed a decree recognizing two Ukrainian regions as independent entities, according to Russian state TV, in a step certain to inflame Moscow's standoff with the West and Kyiv.

In a televised address, Putin accused the United States and NATO of turning Ukraine into a theater of war and said Moscow feared the deployment of NATO troops there and was concerned by U.S. drones spying on Russia.

Anshel Pfeffer

In the Ukrainian conflict both Russia and U.S. are selling false narratives | Analysis

Ukrainian troops patrol at the frontline outside the town of Novoluhanske, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit: ARIS MESSINIS - AFP

As of Saturday evening, the Russian army has yet to invade neighboring Ukraine. But in Moscow and Washington, the leaders of the powers are spinning convenient stories of war.

On Friday afternoon, the leaders of the two pro-Russian enclaves in eastern Ukraine simultaneously warned that Ukraine was about to attack and announced full mobilization and the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of civilians to Russia, to protect their lives. As if by magic, there was already footage on Kremlin television channels of bus convoys ready to convey ethnic Russians to safety and immaculate hostels prepared to shelter them in the motherland.

Sirens were heard on the streets of Luhansk and Donetsk as unverified reports abounded of “Ukrainian saboteurs” caught trying to destroy critical infrastructure.

The online debunking was swift. The videos of both separatist leaders, it transpired, had been prepared two days in advance. Citizens in the enclaves confirmed they had no intention of leaving. They didn’t fear Ukrainian bombardment. There was no logic to it. What they did fear was a hidden hand attacking the evacuation convoys, which would have confirmed the Kremlin’s claims of the Ukrainian government carrying out “genocide” against ethnic Russians.

For the past three years the Russian government has been handing out hundreds of thousands of passports to those living in the enclaves. “Creating” new Russian citizens in such a fashion is both a breach of international law and the Minsk agreement, of which Russia is a signatory. It also creates a pretext for Russia to extend its constitutional “protection” over Russian citizens beyond its borders. The Kremlin already made use of the relevant clause in Russia’s constitution back in 2008 when it invaded Georgia. All the signs indicate that it is preparing the ground to do so again.

Read the full analysis here.

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