Iran negotiator returns to Tehran amid ‘optimism’ over nuclear deal
US President Joe Biden has ordered his administration to impose sanctions on the operator of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Biden announced the move on Feb. 23, saying the United States would join Germany in imposing sanctions on the Baltic Sea pipeline to bring Russian gas to Germany.
“I have ordered my administration to impose sanctions on Nord Stream 2 AG and its corporate officers,” Biden said in a statement.
The step is another part of the initial tranche of US sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Biden added.
“As I have made clear, we will not hesitate to take further action if Russia continues to escalate,” he said.
The top executive of the company building Nord Stream 2, Matthias Warnig, is also listed as sanctioned, the Treasury Department says on his site.
Nord Stream 2 AG is a registered Swiss company whose parent company is Russian gas giant Gazprom, which has a majority stake in the project, while German groups Wintershall and Uniper, Dutch-British oil major Shell, French Engie and the Austrian OMV also participates.
Germany suspended the project indefinitely on February 22 after Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would recognize the independence bids of Moscow-backed separatists who control parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine.
The 1,225 kilometer, $11 billion pipeline is complete but has not yet started operating pending certification from German regulators.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Feb. 22 that a key document required for pipeline certification would be withdrawn, essentially shutting down the project for the time being.
Pipeline critics, including Biden and many members of Congress, have said the pipeline would only increase Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas and undermine Ukraine by depriving it of gas costs. transit collected by the existing gas pipelines that cross its territory.
The pipeline was designed to double the capacity to transport gas from Russia to Germany. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Germany would be able to meet its energy needs without Russian gas.
Earlier on Feb. 23, Moscow fired back angrily at sanctions announced by the United States the day before, promising a “strong response” to a series of measures unveiled by Biden against Russian banks and individuals.
“There should be no doubt the sanctions will meet with a strong response, not necessarily symmetrical, but well-calibrated and sensitive for the American side,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Over the past two days, the United States and its Western allies have mounted a coordinated effort to punish Moscow with sanctions after Putin’s announcement. The move came after Russia rounded up more than 150,000 troops on the border with Ukraine, raising fears of a full-scale invasion.
The fading hopes of a diplomatic solution to the crisis took another hit on Feb. 22 when the White House said a potential summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin was off the table at this time.
It came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was canceling his scheduled meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in view of Moscow’s actions against Ukraine.
Other Western allies, including the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan, have also imposed sanctions on Moscow, often after consultations with Washington.
Live briefing: Ukraine in the crosshairs
Consult the RFE/RL new live briefing on the massive build-up of Russian military forces near the Ukrainian border, the latest moves by the Kremlin, and the reaction of Kiev and the West to a possible invasion. Ukraine in the crosshairs features the latest developments and analysis, updated throughout the day.
The United States said it was ready to respond to further Russian aggression by withholding technology and resources.
“We will cut [Putin] cut off from western technology, cut it off from western financial resources that will be essential to feed its economy and also to enrich itself,” Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNBC.
The United States said Feb. 22 it would impose its “first tranche” of sanctions on Russia for what Biden called the start of an invasion of Ukraine.
The measures included blocking sanctions against two Russian banks and sanctions to block Moscow’s access to Western financial institutions, Biden said, saying Moscow’s actions against Ukraine violated international law.
The two designated banks are Russia’s Promsvyazbank, the armed forces bank, and the Kremlin-controlled VEB Bank, the country’s development bank. Together, the two banks hold $80 billion in assets, a senior administration official said in a call with reporters after Biden announced the sanctions.
The United States also sanctioned Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB); the Kremlin’s first deputy chief of staff, Sergei Kirienko; and Promsvyazbank CEO Pyotr Fradkov. Their families are also punished.
The official said that if the invasion continues, Washington is ready to take further action against Russia’s largest financial institutions, including Sberbank and VTB, which collectively hold nearly $750 billion in assets, more than half of all assets held by Russian banks.
“It was the start of an invasion and this is the start of our response. If Putin escalates further, we will escalate further, using both financial sanctions and export controls,” the top said. responsible for administration.
Russia invaded and seized Ukraine’s Crimea region in 2014 and has since aided separatists in eastern Ukraine in their bloody conflict with the government in Kiev.
Moscow had denied it planned to invade Ukraine ahead of Putin’s February 21 order to send troops to breakaway areas, saying they were needed to keep the peace and protect civilians – claims that the West quickly rejected.
Ukraine took a series of steps on February 23 to bolster its security, calling up military reservists aged 18 to 60 and preparing to declare a 30-day state of emergency.
However, the country’s leaders also tried to ensure that calm was maintained, saying that a general mobilization of troops was not necessary at the moment and pledging not to cede any part of its territory.
It also urged its citizens to avoid traveling to Russia and for those there to leave “immediately”, citing a possible disruption of consular assistance amid rising tensions.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in comments on February 23 that he and his army were ready to oppose any possible moves by Russia and Russian-backed separatists.
He also said he expects further Russian sanctions against Ukraine from Kiev’s Western partners.