What has President Biden said about Russia's invasion in Ukraine?
In a White House address Biden held Putin responsible for the conflict, issued new economic sanctions on Russia and reiterated the threat of cyberattacks.
In the early hours of Thursday morning the Russian military launched a long-feared invasion of Ukraine, mounting an offensive by land, air and sea on its neighbour to the west.
Key positions like the capital of Kyiv and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on the border with Belarus were targeted and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that 137 Ukrainians had died as a result of the Russian incursion.
The aggression shown by Russian President Vladimir Putin was widely decried by Western powers and President Joe Biden gave a White House address on Thursday afternoon outlining the United States’ position. He unveiled a new round of economic sanctions to be levied on Russia but again reiterated that American soldiers would not be sent to help.
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Biden lays the blame squarely at Putin’s door
In recent weeks and days there had been a concerted and predictable effort on the part of the Kremlin to pre-emptively justify the invasion of a sovereign nation. Putin had sought to emphasise historical links between Russia and Ukraine, and even suggested that Ukrainian military forces may be the first to strike.
However the role of Russia as the sole aggressor has been plain to see and Biden spent the first section of his White House address saying exactly that.
He told those gathered: “The Russian military’s begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine. Without provocation, without justification, without necessity, this is a pre-mediated attack. Vladimir Putin has been planning this for months, as we’ve been saying all along.”
“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” he added.
New sanctions are on the way for Russia
The US will not send troops to fight in Ukraine but will utilise economic sanctions to punish Russia and harm the Russian economy in the hope of dissuading, or even preventing, Putin from a prolonged campaign in Ukraine.
Earlier this week he announced what he termed a “first tranche” of sanctions against Russia, but he promised to increase the pressure on Russian finances in his speech on Thursday.
“Today I’m authorizing additional strong sanctions and new limitations on what can be exported to Russia. This is going to impose severe costs on the Russian economy, both immediately and over time,” he promised.
“We’ve cut off Russia’s largest bank. A bank that holds more than one third of Russia’s banking assets by itself. Cut it off from the US financial system. And today we’re also blocking four more major banks.”
He also promised further sanctions for a group of “Russian elites and their family members,” saying “people who personally gained from the Kremlin’s policies... should share in the pain.”
Biden warns of threat of cyber attacks
The Russian offensive into Ukraine will likely be fought on many fronts, with propaganda and economic measures major tools in Putin’s arsenal. Another area in which Russia may look to exert pressure on Ukraine and Western powers is in the area of cybersecurity, something that Russia has shown itself adept at.
In recent years there have been numerous reports of Russian interference in American cyber systems but Biden promised swift retribution if the Kremlin took that path.
“If Russia pursues cyberattacks again our companies, our critical infrastructure, we are prepared to respond,” Biden said.
“For months we’ve been working closely with the private sector to harden our cyber defenses, sharpen our ability to respond to Russian cyber attacks as well. I spoke last night to President Zelensky of Ukraine and I assured him that the United States together with our allies and partners in Europe will support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country.”