Biden threatens Putin with “strong economic sanctions” if Russia increases its pressure on Ukraine | International

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The most tense video call of Joe Biden’s almost 11 months in the White House has resulted in a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin: the United States prepares with its European allies “strong economic sanctions” in case Moscow increases its pressure about Ukraine.

The meeting began this Tuesday after 10 a.m. in Washington (4:00 p.m., Spanish peninsular time) in a cordial atmosphere, with Putin on the other side of the line, at the end of a long wooden table in his residence in Sochi, a holiday city. on the Black Sea coast. In the background, there were tensions, in an increasingly red-hot tone between Moscow and Washington due to the crisis on the border with Ukraine. Washington has information from its espionage services according to which Putin is preparing a military operation with 175,000 soldiers for early 2022, an extreme that he denies. Russia, for its part, demands guarantees that Kiev will not join NATO and that Ukraine will not launch an offensive to regain the territory lost in 2014 in its confrontation in the Donbas with pro-Russian separatists. The meeting has lasted for just over two hours.

The US leader has expressed to Putin his deep concern about his attitude in this crisis, according to a White House spokesman, and has called for an “immediate de-escalation” in the conflict and “a return to diplomacy.” It has reiterated its support for the “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” of Ukraine. With the idea of ​​sending soldiers to the border ruled out, Biden has warned of serious economic sanctions, which a senior official in his Administration announced on Monday. Those sanctions would include preventing big Russian banks from converting rubles into dollars and other currencies. The Bloomberg agency reported, for its part, that initiatives aimed at the waterline of the Russian Direct Investment Fund are on the table, as well as restrictions on the ability of investors to buy Russian debt in the secondary market. The reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank is also contemplated if such an attack on Ukrainian soil occurs, according to this senior official, who remained anonymous. The relationship between the two powers has registered levels of tension typical of the Cold War in recent days.

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The president of the United States, who expressed to Putin from the White House his desire that the next meeting be “face to face”, coordinated the content of those warnings with his “main European allies”, in a round of calls on Monday by the afternoon, to the leaders of Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom (Mario Draghi, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Boris Johnson). After the talk with Putin, Biden plans to repeat those conversations to convey the conclusions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenski also spoke on Monday afternoon to agree on positions for Tuesday’s video call. Both countries, Zelenski has expressed on Twitter, will continue “to act jointly and in coordination.”

Ukraine’s entry into NATO is an old aspiration that dates back to the Bucharest Declaration of 2008. However, Moscow considers that country to be part of its area of ​​influence. For this reason, Putin demanded last week from Washington “solid guarantees” that NATO will not expand further east. The Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg, warned this Sunday that his organization “remains vigilant” in the face of the Russian military escalation on the Ukrainian border and that any aggression “will have consequences.”

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Ukraine’s integration into NATO, however, seems very remote. Alina Frolova, former Ukrainian Defense Deputy Minister and director of the StratCom Ukraine Strategic Communication Center, explains by phone to MRT that “in Kiev there are no expectations of this; there is no progress in a long time, even with the support shown by Stoltenberg ”. However, Frolova does not believe that the West has abandoned them. “The United States has sent arms and has shown that it maintains its commitment. The UK too. It is not a question of number of forces, but of political demonstration ”. According to this Ukrainian expert, the Russian warning “is a global threat, not only to Ukraine” and would thereby seek “a great agreement, a distribution of areas of influence” between powers.

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Hours before the meeting, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Putin would maintain his position with Biden on the war in Ukraine. “We will certainly emphasize our approaches to the need to force the Kiev regime to fulfill its obligations written in black on white in the Minsk package of measures,” Lavrov said. “Kiev will not listen to anyone but the US,” added the head of Russian diplomacy and insisted that the solution for the Donbas only passes through a direct dialogue between the Ukrainian government and representatives of the self-styled “people’s republics” of Lugansk and Donetsk, something that Kiev has always rejected because it considers them to be puppets of what should be its direct interlocutor: the Kremlin.

The Minsk II agreements were signed on February 11, 2015 by Moscow, Kiev and the Agency for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), with the mediation of Germany and France. Unlike Minsk I, this pact was closed in the middle of a major separatist offensive supported by artillery and Russian armored brigades that retaken the Donetsk airport and encircled the Ukrainian army in Debaltsevo. The Ukrainian government, then led by Petró Poroshenko, accepted a constitutional reform to grant more autonomy to the region and recognize local elections if they were supervised by international observers in exchange for regaining control of the Donbas border with Russia. But nothing has been accomplished these six years.

On a possible Russian deployment in the Donbas, Frolova insists that Moscow has so far not recognized the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk despite having delivered more than half a million Russian passports to its inhabitants, and that all its actions have been masked, “Such as the shipment of weapons to the Donbas, the recent crisis of migrants in Belarus or the provocations in Crimea.” But at the same time let us not forget that the war [de 2014] it began without giving credibility to the threats. Now there is the deployment in Crimea, on the borders, the declarations of [el presidente bielorruso, Aleksandr] Lukashenko … On the ground, the situation seems very serious, “he adds.

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They are also expectant in the separatist area of ​​Donbas. One of its most popular commanders, Alexandr Jodakovski, has stated on the Telegram channel where he posts his reflections that “from a local issue we have passed to the expansion of NATO and the red lines that Biden will not recognize. I mean, we go back to 2014, when we said that this was a war between Russia and the West. “

There are all kinds of opinions in Russia about Putin’s order. Mikhail Kasiánov, prime minister during his first term and current leader of the liberal Parnas party, defended on Twitter the so-called “nuclear package” of sanctions that Washington prepares in the event of conflict. “It will surely stop him. There will be no war, or else Russia will go back 30 years, “said the politician about measures that would put the Russian economy in a bind when its national currency continues to sink at 74 rubles the dollar (35 before the war in 2014) and The Central Bank admits that it does not have the tools to control inflation that is dangerously close to double digits because it is due to the supply problems that the entire planet suffers.

Von der Leyen: “We will respond to any further aggression”


The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, assured this morning that the European Union will establish new sanctions against Russia if it decides to invade Ukraine: “We will respond appropriately to any additional aggression, including breaches of international law or any other malicious action. that goes against us or our neighbors, including Ukraine “, has sentenced Von der Leyen in a speech before the ambassadors before the EU of the Member States.

According to the president of the Community Executive, this response will consist of “an expansion of the existing sanctions regimes” and “additional restrictive measures”, which the EU will approve “in coordination” with its international partners.

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