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U.S. sanctions Russia for declaring independence of eastern Ukraine territories

President Joe Biden on Monday issued an executive order sanctioning Russia for recognizing two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine as independent.

“The Russian Federation’s purported recognition of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) or Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) regions of Ukraine contradicts Russia’s commitments under the Minsk agreements and further threatens the peace, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and thereby constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” the order stated.

The executive order expands upon previous sanctions issued when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014 and prohibits new U.S. investment in the breakaway regions, imports and exports from the regions, and financial and property transactions as determined by the U.S. Treasury.

Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. had been prepared for Russia’s move.

Biden’s executive order will “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine” as well as “provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine,” Psaki said in a statement.

Both the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic are controlled by Russia-backed forces.

“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,” the White House said. “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.”

The Departments of State and Treasury will be releasing more details on the measure “shortly,” the White House said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Putin’s decision a “flagrant disrespect for international law and norms,” and noted the executive order is designed to prevent Russia from profiting off of the move.

“It is not directed at the people of Ukraine or the Ukrainian government and will allow humanitarian and other related activity to continue in these regions,” Blinken said in a statement.

The executive order followed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s lengthy televised address on Monday, when he laid out his decision to recognize the independence of the two breakaway regions. Both have been the scene of fighting between Russian-backed forces and the Ukrainian government since 2014.

Putin’s move was met with swift condemnation from the West and was criticized as a violation of the Minsk peace accords. That agreement was seen as the only way to settle the eight-year-long conflict in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.

Biden held a series of meetings on Monday, first with his national security team as murmurs of Putin’s decision began to circulate. The president also held calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to the White House.

The European Union also vowed to impose sanctions, though the leaders did not provide any details of what those sanctions might be or the precise targets of the measures.

European Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said they “condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision by the Russian President to proceed with the recognition of the non-government controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine as independent entities.”

“This step is a blatant violation of international law as well as of the Minsk agreements,” the two leaders said in a statement on Monday. “The Union will react with sanctions against those involved in this illegal act.”

Lili Bayer contributed to this report.

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