Russia ‘fraudulently’ attempting to annex parts of Ukraine, says U.S. as it imposes more sanctions

The U.S. on Friday sanctioned more than 1,000 people and firms connected to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including its Central Bank governor and families of Security Council members, after President Vladimir Putin signed treaties absorbing occupied regions of Ukraine into Russia in defiance of international law.

In a statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it’s striking out against activity related to Putin’s “purported annexation” and continued occupation of the four regions of Ukraine following “sham” referendums held in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk.

The department named hundreds of members of Russia’s legislature, leaders of the country’s financial and military infrastructure and suppliers for sanctions designations. The Commerce Department added 57 companies to its list of export control violators, and the State Department added more than 900 people to its visa restriction list.

“We will not stand by as Putin fraudulently attempts to annex parts of Ukraine. The Treasury Department and U.S. government are taking sweeping action today to further weaken Russia’s already degraded military industrial complex and undermine its ability to wage its illegal war,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

WATCH | Putin declares he’s annexed Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine:

Putin launches process to annex Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a speech Friday during a ceremony declaring the annexation of four Russian-controlled regions in Ukraine: Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. The ceremony came hours after at least 25 people were killed in Zaporizhzhia by a Russian strike.

“The Treasury Department, U.S. government, and our allies will not hesitate to take swift and severe actions against individuals and companies inside and outside of Russia who are complicit in this war and these sham referendums,” she said.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Putin’s actions “have no legitimacy” and that the new financial penalties will impose costs on people and companies inside and outside of Russia “that provide political or economic support to illegal attempts to change the status of Ukrainian territory.”

Canada ‘will never’ recognize referendums

Canada announced on Friday that it’s also imposing new sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its “unprovoked and unjustifiable” invasion of Ukraine.

“The vote to integrate Ukraine’s territories into the Russian Federation is a crude attempt to formalize President Putin’s conquest through political theatre,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, speaking at a joint news conference in Washington with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly announces that Canada has imposed new sanctions on dozens of Russian oligarchs and others in response to Russia’s move to annex parts of Ukraine. (Jacquelyn Martin/The Associated Press)

“As Canada and  NATO allies have said, the pre-orchestrated ‘outcomes’ of the referendums has no legitimacy and will never be recognized,” she said.

“Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia will remain Ukrainian territory,” Joly said.

The Canadian sanctions affect 43 Russian oligarchs, financial elites and their families and 35 Russia-backed senior officials in four occupied regions of Ukraine. They also target a so-called governing body in Kherson, a Ukrainian port city that Putin declared “independent” earlier Friday.

EU condemns ‘illegal annexation’ of Ukrainian territory

In Brussels, the European Union issued a statement saying its 27 member states “firmly reject and unequivocally condemn the illegal annexation” of Ukraine’s territory.

EU leaders said Moscow is undermining the “rules-based international order” and has violated Ukraine’s fundamental right to independence. They added that they will never recognize the illegal referendums that Russia organized “as a pretext for this further violation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The European Union’s top migration official, meanwhile, is urging member countries to clamp down on issuing visas to Russian citizens amid heightened security concerns over Putin’s nuclear threats and move to annex parts of Ukraine.

Migration Commissioner Ylva Johansson called Putin’s actions “clearly an escalation and that means also an escalation of the security threat toward the European Union.” She urged EU countries to enforce more stringent checks on Russian nationals and deny documents to anyone who might pose a threat.

Ukraine accelerates bid to join NATO

Ukraine’s president on Friday said his country is submitting an “accelerated” application to join the NATO military alliance.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s statement came shortly after Putin signed treaties to annex four Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine and warned would protect the regions using “all available means.”

The Ukrainian leader’s NATO application adds another layer of complexity to the seven-month-old conflict. Zelenskyy also repeated his pledge to retake all Ukrainian territory now held by Russia which he said “feels our power.” He also said Ukraine is ready for dialogue with Moscow but “with another president of Russia.”

NATO was not immediately able to respond to questions about what Ukraine’s “accelerated” application to join the alliance would mean.

Ukraine is already considered an “aspirant country” for membership at the world’s biggest security alliance, along with Georgia. All 30 NATO allies would have to agree for the country to join.

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