Biden tweet from exactly two years ago calls out going ‘toe-to-toe’ with Putin

US president directs economic sanctions to separatist Ukraine regions

Alex Woodward
New York
Tuesday 22 February 2022 00:05 GMT
'Plainly in breach of international law', says PM after Putin recognises independence of DPR and LPR

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While campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president in February 2020, then-candidate Joe Biden said he was the only candidate among the contenders “who’s ever gone toe-to-toe” with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be president. He doesn’t want me to be our nominee,” Mr Biden said on Twitter on 21 February, 2020. “If you’re wondering why – it’s because I’m the only person in this field who’s ever gone toe-to-toe with him.”

Exactly two years later, the 46th president of the US directed economic sanctions on two separatist regions of Ukraine that Putin has recognised as independent, with Russia’s defense ministry deploying “peacekeeping” troops to the territories following his emotional speech laying claim to the neighbouring country as “created by Russia”.

President Biden’s executive order comes as his Russian counterpart signed a decree recognising east Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk as independent entities, which could allow separatist leaders to request military aid from Russia and accelerate a potential Russian incursion.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration has “anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately”.

The order also prohibits “the importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services, or technology from the Covered Regions”, as well as “the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a United States person, wherever located, of any goods, services, or technology” to the regions.

“To be clear: these measures are separate from and would be in addition to the swift and severe economic measures we have been preparing in coordination with Allies and partners should Russia further invade Ukraine,” Ms Psaki said in a statement.

“We are continuing to closely consult with Allies and partners, including Ukraine, on next steps and on Russia’s ongoing escalation along the border with Ukraine.”

A senior administration official signalled that officials may take “further measures” following Russia’s latest move to undermine “Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as of Russia’s own international commitments”.

In a speech on Monday, Mr Putin characterised Ukraine as part of “ancient Russian lands” undermined by Nato alliance “foreign powers”, adding that “the responsibility for the possible continuation of the bloodbath will be on the conscience of the regime that is ruling in Kiev”.

His speech followed weeks of stalled diplomatic negotiations over heightened tensions along Russia’s border with Ukraine, where Russia has staged escalating military maneuvers and more than 100,000 troops and military equipment.

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