BRUSSELS – With military intervention in Ukraine off the table and countries around the world seeking to impose more financial sanctions on Moscow, the United States, Britain and the European Union announced on Friday that would take steps to sanction Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. .
The unanimous EU decision, part of a wider sanctions package, indicated that Western powers are moving towards unprecedented measures to try to force Putin to stop the brutal invasion of neighbor Russia and start a major war in Europe. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also told NATO leaders in a call on Friday that Britain would take steps to impose sanctions on Putin and Lavrov. The EU said it would act to freeze Putin’s assets.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said US sanctions will include a travel ban. President Joe Biden, who previously said sanctions targeting Putin were being considered, decided to act in the past 24 hours after talks with European leaders.
The US Treasury Department is expected to release more details later on Friday.
PSAKI said the move was meant to send “a clear message about the strength of opposition to actions” by the West against President Putin.
Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said the move would be “a unique step in history towards a nuclear power, a country that has a permanent seat on the Security Council, but also shows…how we are united”.
It was unclear what the practical impact would be on both men and how important their assets were in the EU.
“I can assure you that if you have major assets and all of a sudden you can’t get them, it will cost you dearly,” said EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell. He did not provide details.
EU ministers said further sanctions were still possible, including the expulsion of Russia from SWIFT, the dominant system for global financial transactions.
“The debate on SWIFT is not excluded, it will continue”, declared the Luxembourg Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean Asselborn.
Further admonishing Russia, the Council of Europe suspended Russia from the main human rights organization on the continent. The 47-nation council said Russia remains a member and continues to be bound by relevant human rights conventions.
Undeterred by the punitive sanctions game, Russia launched its own tit-for-tat measures, banning British flights into and over its territory in retaliation for a similar British ban on Aeroflot flights.
Russian authorities also announced the “partial restriction” of access to Facebook after the social media network restricted the accounts of several Kremlin-backed outlets. Russia’s state communications watchdog Roskomnadzor said it demanded that Facebook lift restrictions it imposed on state news agency RIA Novosti on Thursday. Zvezda State and pro-Kremlin news sites Lenta.Ru and Gazeta.Ru.
Yet with the Kremlin’s eyes fully on expanding attacks on Ukraine, nearly all of the action was still going one way.
The EU and other Western powers like the United States and the United Kingdom have agreed to a series of sanctions targeting sectors ranging from Russia’s banking sector to its oil refineries and defense industry.
And just as Russia was making a pincer movement to suffocate Ukraine and its capital, Kiev, Western powers were implementing measures aimed at “suffocating the Russian economy”, in the words of the French foreign minister. Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Seeking to bolster its eastern flank, the NATO alliance hosted a virtual summit of heads of government, including US President Joe Biden, on Friday.
In terms not seen since the Cold War, threats are coming from all sides and crossing society.
In a sign of papal anger, Pope Francis himself went to the Russian Embassy to “express his concern about the war”, the Vatican said. It was an extraordinary practical gesture, since popes usually receive ambassadors and heads of state at the Vatican. For Francis, the head of state of the Vatican, leaving the city-state and traveling a short distance to the Russian embassy to the Holy See was a sign of his displeasure.
Putin’s invasion also had repercussions in the sports world.
The May 28 UEFA Champions League final, European football’s Super Bowl, was axed from St Petersburg and replaced by Paris after French President Emmanuel Macron got involved. Formula 1 also scrapped this season’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi in protest.
And in pop culture, the hugely popular Eurovision Song Contest also banned Russia from the May final in Turin, Italy.
The action was not just limited to Western powers. Asian and Pacific countries have joined the United States, the EU and other Western countries in imposing punitive measures against Russian banks and major companies. Nations have also implemented export controls aimed at starving Russian industries and the military of semiconductors and other high-tech products.
“Japan must clearly show its position that we will never tolerate any attempt to change the status quo by force,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Friday while announcing new measures, including freezing visas and visas. assets of Russian groups, banks and individuals, and the suspension of shipments of semiconductors and other restricted goods to Russian organizations linked to the military.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “an unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost as a result of Russia’s decision” and announced targeted travel bans on Russian officials and other measures.
Taiwan announced on Friday that it would join in economic sanctions, although it did not specify what those would be. They could potentially focus on controlling exports of semiconductor chips, where Taiwan is the main producer.
While most Asian countries rallied in support of Ukraine, China continued to denounce sanctions against Russia and accused the United States and its allies of provoking Moscow. Beijing, worried about American power in Asia, has increasingly aligned its foreign policy with that of Russia to challenge the West.
“The Chinese government is continuing to ease trade restrictions with Russia and that is simply unacceptable,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison complained. “You’re not going to throw Russia a lifeline in the middle of a period when they’re invading another country,” he added.
Foster Klug reported from Tokyo. AP reporters around the world contributed to this story.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine