Biden issues harsh economic sanctions against eastern Ukraine separatist regions recognized as ‘independent’ by Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin sparked controversy Monday when he formally recognized the supposed independence and sovereignty of two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, Donetsk, and Luhansk, where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting against the Ukrainian government in Kyiv since 2014.

In response to that announcement, President Joe Biden issued an executive order that effectively blocked all economic ties between the United States and the pair of disputed regions in eastern Ukraine, the Washington Examiner reported.

The Biden administration was also quick to note that this action by the president was separate and apart from a package of purportedly severe economic sanctions that have been made ready in the event that Russia actually further invades Ukraine with military troops.

Separatist regions targeted with severe economic sanctions

“We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement Monday. “President Biden will soon issue an Executive Order that will prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by U.S. persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine. This E.O. will also provide authority to impose sanctions on any person determined to operate in those areas of Ukraine.”

“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,” she added. “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 executive order itself was signed and published a short time later, and as Psaki had noted, it imposed harsh and immediate economic consequences on the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

That order barred any new U.S. investments or financial transactions of any sort in the two regions, and also placed a ban on exports and imports of any “goods, services, or technology” to or from those areas.

Exceptions to ease burden on innocent Ukrainian people

A “fact sheet” from the White House confirmed the executive order’s prohibition against American investment, trade, and transactions in Donetsk and Luhansk, as well as that additional sanctions could be imposed directly on certain individuals operating in those two regions.

It was stressed, however, that these measures weren’t aimed at the people who reside in the two disputed regions — though they will bear the brunt of the economic pain — and some exceptions to the otherwise stringent sanctions were noted by the administration.

That included a brief window to “wind down” U.S. ties in the regions as well as an allowance for continued exports of things like food and medicine and personal remittances. Further, the order will allow for humanitarian aid for the people and the continued operation of mail services, the internet, and telecommunications services.

Reason for Russian troops to enter eastern Ukraine

The Examiner noted that Russian President Putin’s recognition of the purported independence of Donetsk and Luhansk was concerning because it appeared to lay the groundwork for the separatist leaders of those regions to formally request Russian military assistance, granting Putin an ostensibly justifiable reason to send in Russian troops.

In a background press call Monday night, an unnamed “senior administration official” seemingly confirmed as much when it was noted that, following Putin’s announcement, the Russian government “immediately signed so-called friendship and mutual aid agreements” with the separatists.

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