Washington, DC – The United States will impose sanctions on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his decision to invade Ukraine, the White House has said.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the decision comes in coordination with the European Union.
“In alignment with the decision by our European allies, the United States will join them in sanctioning President Putin and Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov and members of the Russian national security team,” she told reporters.
Psaki added that more details about the sanctions are expected to be released later on Friday.
Putin has said the invasion aims to demilitarise the country without occupying it, while Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of seeking to “destroy Ukraine politically by taking down the head of state”.
The EU agreed earlier on Friday to freeze assets linked to Putin and Lavrov.
Asked about US plans to penalise the Russian president for the invasion, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price had said earlier on Friday that Washington was looking closely at “additional options” to pressure Moscow and Putin.
“As you heard from the president yesterday, all options are on the table; all options means all,” Price told reporters.
Joe Biden on Thursday announced a sanctions package targeting leading Russian banks as well as the country’s technological imports and “elites” from Putin’s inner circle.
But Russia has appeared undeterred by the raft of Western sanctions, as its forces continued their offensive on Friday with troops advancing towards the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
Russia initially denied US and European allegations that it was planning to invade Ukraine despite a massive military buildup, insisting that it had legitimate security concerns over Kyiv’s deepening alliance with the West – and demanding guarantees that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO.
Numerous rounds of talks between Russian, European and American officials had failed to end the impasse. US and European officials had argued that NATO is a defensive alliance that does not pose a threat to Russia, stressing that it would be a violation of Kyiv’s sovereignty to allow Moscow to veto its efforts to join.
On Friday, the Kremlin said it was “ready” for talks with a Ukrainian delegation in the Belarusian capital Minsk, but Washington appeared to dismiss the offer for negotiations.
“Now we see Moscow suggesting that diplomacy take place at the barrel of a gun – or as Moscow’s rockets, mortars, artillery target the Ukrainian people,” Price told reporters. “This is not real diplomacy. Those are not the conditions for real diplomacy.”
Zelenskyy said in a tweet earlier on Friday that he discussed “strengthening sanctions, concrete defense assistance and an anti-war coalition” with Biden.
The US president later said in a statement that he “commended the brave actions of the Ukrainian people who were fighting to defend their country” during the phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.
“I also conveyed ongoing economic, humanitarian, and security support being provided by the United States as well as our continued efforts to rally other countries to provide similar assistance,” Biden said.
The US president added that NATO remains united and will maintain its “Open Door to those European states who share our values and who one day may seek to join our Alliance”.
Early on Friday, NATO leaders held a virtual summit to discuss the invasion, which they called the “gravest threat to Euro-Atlantic security in decades”.
“Russia bears full responsibility for this conflict. It has rejected the path of diplomacy and dialogue repeatedly offered to it by NATO and Allies. It has fundamentally violated international law, including the UN Charter,” NATO said in a statement.
It also announced increasing troop presence in Eastern European countries that are members of the alliance.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, told reporters that Russia’s attacks on Ukraine “have been more brutal” on Friday than the previous day, but that the country’s troops remain undeterred.
“All Ukrainians are defending the country at the moment, either in the armed forces, or territorial defence or anywhere where help is needed … We need all the support right now that we can get from our friends and allies,” Markarova said.