Putin Wants to ‘Reestablish the Former Soviet Union,’ Biden Says As He Unveils ‘Devastating’ Sanctions

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An angry President Joe Biden announced “devastating” sanctions against Russia Thursday as punishment for its all-out invasion of Ukraine and accused Russian leader Vladimir Putin of waging war to rebuild the old Soviet Union.

“Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now he and his country will bear the consequences,” Biden told reporters at a Washington, D.C. press conference. 

“He has much larger ambitions than Ukraine. He wants to reestablish the former Soviet Union. That’s what this is all about,” Biden said.

Russia sent tanks, troops, and missile launches into into Ukraine Thursday, killing at least 57 people, wounding more than 160, and unleashing a barrage of condemnations from countries around the globe. As the day came to a close, terrified residents descended into city subway stations for protection from air strikes.

In response, Biden unveiled even more sanctions against Russia Thursday, targeting Russian banks, oligarchs and high-tech enterprises, as well as slashing exports as a way to starve Russian industry and military of much-needed U.S. semiconductors and other technologies.

The economic punishments “exceed anything that’s ever been done,” Biden said.

Countries belonging the Group of 7 industrialized nations also pledged Thursday to sanction Russian assets. European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to “weaken Russia’s economic base and its capacity to modernize” following its “barbaric attack” on Ukraine.

“We will freeze Russian assets in the European Union and stop the access of Russian banks to European financial markets,” she vowed.

Biden said Russian banks, holding around $1 trillion in assets, have been sanctioned, including the country’s largest bank. 

“We have purposely designed these sanctions to maximize a long-term impact on Russia, and to minimize the long-term impact on the United States and our allies,” the president said.

Noting that the invasion had already spiked oil prices, Biden called on fuel companies to not gouge gasoline prices in the U.S. He also promised to do “everything in my power to limit the pain that the American people are feeling at the gas pump.”

The president also announced he was sending additional American troops to Germany to reassure NATO forces. U.S. troops will not be used to fight Russian invaders in Ukraine, he said.

After the president’s press conference, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against 24 Belarusian individuals and entities, as well as the defense minister, for supporting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This aggression cannot go unanswered,” Biden said. “If it did, the consequences for America would be much worse. America stands up to bullies. We stand up for freedom. This is who we are.”