VILNIUS, LITHUANIA – FEBRUARY 24: People hold flags and posters during a protest against Russian attack on Ukraine near the Russian Embassy, on February 24, 2022 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Overnight, Russia began a large-scale attack on Ukraine, with explosions reported in multiple cities and far outside the restive eastern regions held by Russian-backed rebels. (Photo by Paulius Peleckis/Getty Images)
President Joe Biden will sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top diplomat personally, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday, escalating penalties on the Russian government for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
The United States is also readying 10,000 to 12,000 U.S. troops to deploy to Europe as part of a NATO effort to boost readiness, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. It’s unclear how the 7,000 troops activated Thursday from Fort Stewart, Georgia, will fit into that force.
NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Tod Wolters activated the alliance’s response force — the first time NATO has deployed the forces “in a deterrence and defense role,” Kirby said — earlier Friday
Biden has repeatedly pledged not to send U.S. troops to the conflict but to “defend every inch” of NATO territory.
“It’s not entirely clear if Mr. Putin has designs beyond Ukraine,” Kirby said. “And it’s because that’s not perfectly clear that we continue to look for ways to bolster our NATO capabilities and reassure our allies. One of the reasons we are doing this is because we want to make it clear to him that we will defend every inch of NATO territory. ”
Several NATO allies border either Ukraine or Russia, or both.
The personal sanctions on Putin and Russia Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov build on sanctions Biden announced Thursday mainly against Russia’s major financial institutions.
The move freezes Putin and Lavrov’s access to assets in U.S. accounts. It follows the European Union taking a similar step earlier Friday.
The sanctions would also target members of the Russian national security apparatus, Psaki said, pledging more details later Friday afternoon.
The United States will continue to provide assistance to Ukraine, even as the logistics have become more complicated as the invasion has progressed over the last two days, Kirby said.
“We are going to provide additional security assistance for Ukraine, we will,” Kirby told reporters. “How that is going to be done is still being worked out.”
Kirby shied from offering details of a “dynamic, fluid situation” on the ground, but said Ukrainian forces were “fighting back” against the Russian invasion. Supplying assistance to Ukraine, though, has been complicated by Russian forces’ presence in the last two days.
Russia does not control the airspace over Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but the airspace is contested, Kirby said.
President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for 40 minutes Friday, the White House said.
Biden “commended the brave actions of the Ukrainian people who were fighting to defend their country” and “conveyed ongoing economic, humanitarian, and security support being provided by the United States as well as our continued efforts to rally other countries to provide similar assistance,” the White House said.
Washington reporter Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
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