| 24 May 2024, Friday |

U.S. and allies step up sanctions pressure on Russia over Ukraine

On Wednesday, the US and its allies pushed to increase economic pressure on Russia over the deployment of soldiers in separatist regions of eastern Ukraine, in one of Europe’s greatest security crises in decades.

The Ukrainian military claimed one soldier was killed and six were injured in the previous 24 hours of increasing bombardment by pro-Russian separatists employing heavy artillery, mortar bombs, and Grad rocket systems in the two separate districts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has massed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders, according to U.S. estimates, and signed a decree on the deployment of troops in the breakaway Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves to “keep the peace” – a justification the United States says is “nonsense”.

Putin on Monday recognized the separatist enclaves in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine which adjoin Russia, deepening Western fears of a major war in Europe by raising the prospect of a full-scale invasion beyond the breakaway areas.

The United States, the European Union, Britain, Australia, Canada and Japan responded with plans to target banks and elites while Germany froze a major gas pipeline project from Russia.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, announcing more measures on Wednesday, said Britain would stop Russia selling sovereign debt in London.

“We’ve been very clear that we’re going to limit Russian access to British markets,” Truss told Sky. “We’re going to stop the Russian government with raising sovereign debt in the United Kingdom.”

Britain on Tuesday announced sanctions on three billionaires with close links to Putin, and five small lenders including Promsvyazbank.

But, like other U.S. allies, it has said more sanctions would come if Russia launched a full invasion of its neighbor.

“There will be even more tough sanctions on key oligarchs, on key organizations in Russia, limiting Russia’s access to the financial markets, if there is a full scale invasion of Ukraine,” Truss said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov brushed off the threat of sanctions no Tuesday.

“Our European, American, British colleagues will not stop and will not calm down until they have exhausted all their possibilities for the so-called punishment of Russia,” he said.

China said it never thought sanctions were the best way to solve problems, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said. She called for “dialogue and consultation”.

Moscow is calling for security guarantees, including a promise that Ukraine will never join NATO, while the United States and its allies offer Putin confidence-building and arms control steps to defuse the stand-off.

Satellite imagery over the past 24 hours shows several new troop and equipment deployments in western Russia and more than 100 vehicles at a small airfield in southern Belarus, which borders Ukraine, according to U.S. firm Maxar.

Ukraine has started conscripting reservists aged 18-60 following a decree by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the armed forces said.

  • Reuters