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February 22, 2022

Democratic leaders, including Md. lawmakers, back Biden’s sanctions on Russia for Ukraine invasion

Credit: Frederick News-Post, Capital News Service

WASHINGTON – After President Biden announced the first round of sanctions on Russia Tuesday after its latest invasion of Ukraine, Maryland Democratic lawmakers joined other congressional leaders in backing the administration’s steps and calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin for violating international law.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Allies in support of Ukraine, its people and its sovereignty,” Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, said in a statement on Twitter. “Vladimir Putin must be held accountable for rejecting diplomacy and the rule of law. This is about peace, stability and democracy worldwide.”

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said the sanctions, taken along with those by U.S. allies, “not only send a clear signal to Putin but will also impose immediate costs on the Russian regime.”

“I agree wholeheartedly with President Biden’s commitment to imposing further waves of punishing sanctions should Putin continue to reject diplomacy and further escalate this conflict,” Van Hollen said in a statement. “As my colleagues and I discussed with our allies at this weekend’s Munich Security Conference, we must continue working in concert with our NATO and other partners to ensure Russia pays a steep price for its hostile and destabilizing actions.”

Biden said that Putin’s movement of troops into parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists required the United States and its European Union allies to impose sanctions.

“This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the president said in an address from the White House’s East Room.

The sanctions include:

  • Freezing the assets of the Russian bank VEB (Vnesheconombank) and prohibiting U.S. individuals and businesses from doing business with the institution and blocking it from participating in the global financial system
  • Freezing the assets of Russia’s military bank (Promsvyazbank) and imposing the same prohibitions on the institution as on VEB
  • Blocking western financiers from funding Russian sovereign debt
  • Blocking access to U.S. assets by Russian elites (oligarchs) and their family members

“There’s no question that Russia is the aggressor. So we’re clear-eyed about the challenges we’re facing,” Biden said. “There is still time to avert the worst-case scenario that will bring untold suffering to millions of people if they move as suggested.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who just led a congressional delegation to the United Kingdom, Germany and Israel, issued a statement calling Putin’s moves into Ukraine “a clear attack by Russia on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

She endorsed Biden’s sanctions, adding: “As was clear throughout the entirety of our travels: if Putin’s goal was to divide allied nations, he only served to unite and strengthen the NATO alliance. The United States and our transatlantic allies stand together in our unwavering commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine and to countering Russian aggression.”

Biden’s briefing came after Putin over several weeks deployed more than 150,000 Russian troops and equipment to the Ukrainian border and began moving troops into two Ukrainian provinces on Monday.

Biden said that although the United States has no intention of fighting Russia, he is moving additional troops and equipment to protect Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Baltic nations that, like Ukraine, once were part of the Soviet Union that many foreign observers believe Putin is trying to reassemble.

“We want to send an unmistakable message, though, that the United States, together with our Allies, will defend every inch of NATO territory and abide by the commitments we made to NATO,” Biden said.

The sanctions also follow Putin’s recognition of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, which currently are controlled by Russian-backed separatists, as “independent,” according to the White House.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said Putin’s claims to “independent” territories “violate Ukraine’s sovereignty” and “open the door to further invasion.”

“He does not care an iota about the people living in the Donbas,” Hoyer said in a statement, “his declarations serve only the cause of his own ambitions to restore Russian domination over the peoples of Eastern Europe and stamp out the hard-won democracy in Ukraine, which he perceives as a threat to his autocratic rule in Russia.”

Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Upper Marlboro, said on MSNBC that the sanctions reflected “a measured approach” and were “very appropriate.”

“But we’ve got to be ready to inflict economic distress on the Russian economy and if necessary the Russian people” if Putin refuses to respond to the new sanctions and continues to pursue the invasion of Ukraine, Brown said.

Rep. David Trone, D-Potomac, expressed alarm to Capital News Service about the evolving situation. He said as a member of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, he is committed to working to protect freedom and democracy in Ukraine.

“Like many Americans, I am deeply concerned about the evolving situation in Ukraine, the safety of the Ukrainian people, and the security of our own citizens working in the region,” Trone said. “I have full confidence in our national security team at the White House, and I sincerely hope we will be able to resolve this issue peacefully and diplomatically.”

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, called the new sanctions a “strong start” and urged Putin to pursue diplomacy to resolve the crisis.

“As President Biden said today, Russia has unequivocally violated international law by invading sovereign Ukrainian territory,” Ruppersberger said in a statement to CNS. “Russia’s continued aggression should not be promoted as peacekeeping…It is Putin’s choice and I urge him to choose diplomacy for the sake of his people.”

The U.S. sanctions are the latest efforts to dissuade Russia from a larger invasion. His troops have occupied Ukraine’s Crimea since 2014.

Germany announced a stop to the development and certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would have increased the amount of Russian natural gas distributed throughout Europe. The European Union and the United Kingdom separately announced sanctions as well.

In an MSNBC interview following Biden’s remarks, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-New Jersey, said that he supported targeting Russian financial institutions for sanctions.

“VEB bank is one of the most substantial banks. It was on my list of banks in my legislation that I wanted to sanction,” said Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “This is a matter that is definitely going to hurt.”

Biden said the United States will continue to provide defensive assistance to Ukraine and will impose additional sanctions on Russia if the conflict persists.

“We’re united in our support of Ukraine. We’re united in our opposition to Russian aggression. And we’re united in our resolve to defend our NATO Alliance,” the president said. “And we’re united in our understanding of the urgency and seriousness of the threat Russia is making to global peace and stability.”