President Joe Biden spoke at the White House Thursday afternoon to address the new sanctions the United States has imposed on Russia today in response to Moscow’s malign actions.
The President’s speech was broadcast live on the Voice of America website with translation into Russian.
The President began his speech by declaring that he is serious about his responsibility for US-Russian relations.
“We cannot allow foreign states to interfere in American elections with impunity,” Joe Biden said, adding that during his telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he made it clear to his counterpart that he was aware of Russian interference in the elections.
The President stressed that now, after the introduction of a new round of sanctions, it is high time to ease tensions with Moscow, saying that both countries still have opportunities to work together.
“I made it clear to President Putin that we could go further, but I decided not to,” Biden said, referring to the scale of the sanctions. “I decided to act proportionately.”
Should Russia continue to interfere with American democracy, the United States is ready to respond to these actions, Biden warned.
Biden assured that Washington “is not seeking to escalate the conflict with Russia”, expressing hope that he will be able to build “more effective relations” with President Vladimir Putin and saying that the Russian leader “agrees” with this idea.
Biden’s proposed summit with Putin, which, according to the president, may take place in the summer in one of the European countries, will be a chance “to start a dialogue on strategic stability.”
Putin still hasn’t responded to this invitation, but Biden noted that “our teams are discussing this opportunity right now.”
Biden stressed the existence of “critical global challenges that require joint work by Russia and the United States, including containing the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea, ending the pandemic [COVID-19] around the world and overcoming the existential crisis associated with climate change ”.
Biden added that in a conversation with Putin, he spoke out against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and criticized the current accumulation of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.
“I confirmed that the United States supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and urged [Путина] refrain from any military action, ”the president said.
Commenting on the situation with the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Joe Biden said that this is a “difficult issue” affecting the interests of the European allies, but added that he personally always opposed this project. “This is still a pressing issue,” Biden added, without going into details.
The new sanctions package is a response by the United States to Moscow’s recent malicious actions, including a cyber espionage campaign against SolarWinds software, Russian interference in the US presidential election, and the recent concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine’s borders and in occupied Crimea.
For the first time, the US administration named the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) the organizer of a hacker attack on SolarWinds software, as a result of which cybercriminals gained access to the networks of dozens of government agencies and large American companies. The SVR called this accusation “nonsense.”
More than 30 Russian structures fell under the sanctions. In addition, the United States announced the expulsion from the country of at least 10 Russian citizens, mostly members of the Russian diplomatic corps with ties to the intelligence services.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden also signed a decree allowing the US government to impose sanctions on any sector of the Russian economy.
“This decree demonstrates that the United States will take a strategically and economically significant response to Russia if it continues or intensifies its destabilizing actions at the international level,” the White House stressed.
In notifying Congress of this decree, Biden said: “I have come to the conclusion that the said harmful foreign policy activities of the Russian government are, in particular, attempts to undermine the conduct of free and fair democratic elections and the democratic institutions of the United States and its allies and partners; conducting malicious cyber activities against the United States and its allies and partners; encouraging and using transnational corruption to influence foreign governments; extraterritorial harassment of dissidents or journalists; undermining security in countries and regions important to the national security of the United States; and violations of long-standing principles of international law, including respect for the territorial integrity of states, constitute an extraordinary and extreme threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States. ”
The White House also called on Russia to end the persecution of dissidents and journalists on the territory of foreign states.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department has taken large-scale measures against 16 legal entities and 16 individuals who participated in attempts to influence the US presidential election in 2020 at the direction of the Russian authorities.
Several media outlets controlled by the Russian special services and played a key role in the Russian disinformation campaign have been sanctioned: the news agencies SouthFront, NewsFront and Inforos and the online magazine Strategic Culture Foundation.
The sanctions list also includes companies associated with Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin: Trans Logistic and Unijet, as well as six Russian technology companies that support the cyber programs of the Russian special services.
Today, sanctions were also imposed on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant who is an agent of the Russian special services and carries out influence operations on their behalf.
The Office for the Control of Foreign Assets has also sanctioned five individuals and three legal entities associated with the occupation of Crimea and serious human rights violations against the local population.
In particular, organizations involved in the construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait, which the world community condemned as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty, were sanctioned: Lenpromtransproekt and Directorate for the construction of the railway. Berkakit-Tommot-Yakutsk “. The sanctions list also includes Leonid Ryzhenkin, the head of the construction company Mostotrest, which invested more than $ 1.9 billion in the construction of the Kerch Bridge.
In addition, sanctions were introduced against Simferopol SIZO-1, where numerous human rights violations against Ukrainian citizens are committed.
From June, a decree will come into effect prohibiting American financial institutions from purchasing bonds in rubles and other currencies issued by the Bank of Russia, the National Wealth Fund (NWF) or the Russian Ministry of Finance after June 14, 2021. These restrictions apply only to the primary bond market.
In addition, the Treasury Department, along with Australia, the UK and Canada, imposed sanctions on eight individuals and entities associated with Russia’s occupation of Crimea.