President Biden on Friday vowed to hold Russia accountable for its “fraudulent attempt” to annex Ukrainian territory and called on other countries to do the same.
Biden blasted a move earlier in the day by Russian President Vladimir Putin to announce the annexation of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, four Ukrainian regions that he claimed were now part of Russia.
“Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy. The United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders,” Biden said in a statement. “We will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, including through the $1.1 billion in additional security assistance the United States announced this week.”
The U.S. announced a raft of new sanctions on Russian government and military leaders in response to the annexation attempt, the latest bid to squeeze officials in Moscow and weaken the Russian economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine, which started roughly seven months ago.
The Treasury Department is sanctioning Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina, the governor of Russia’s Central Bank and a former adviser to Putin. The department is also sanctioning more than 100 members of the Russian Duma.
Treasury and State are also sanctioning relatives of members of Russia’s National Security Council, including the wife and children of Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Defense Minister Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu.
The State Department is also imposing visa restrictions on Ochur-Suge Mongush, a Russian soldier who is accused of castrating and torturing a Ukrainian prisoner of war. The sanctions also target hundreds of other individuals, including members of the Russian military and Belarusian military officials.
“We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable,” Biden said. “We will continue to provide Ukraine with the equipment it needs to defend itself, undeterred by Russia’s brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbor. And I look forward to signing legislation from Congress that will provide an additional $12 billion to support Ukraine.”
“I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia’s illegal attempts at annexation and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.
Putin delivered a speech at the Kremlin in which he signed decrees declaring the four Ukrainian regions as part of Russia. He cited the “will of millions” after referenda in each region that have been widely condemned as a “sham” and manipulated by the Kremlin.
The annexations, which experts said are the largest land grab since World War II, come as Putin has grown increasingly aggressive in his rhetoric since a successful Ukrainian counteroffensive earlier this month forced Russian forces to retreat.
He has made veiled references to Russia’s nuclear capabilities and his willingness to defend Russian territory. On Friday, he argued the U.S. “created a precedent” by using an atomic bomb in Japan at the end of World War II.
Experts have also pointed to Russia as the likely source of explosions along the Nord Stream pipelines, which deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany, though the U.S. and others have yet to formally blame Moscow for the attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO to accept Ukraine as a member in response to Putin’s annexation attempts. The alliance has been reluctant to do so amid fighting in Ukraine under the treaty’s principle that an attack on one member would draw all members into the conflict.