President Joe Biden has announced that sanctions to cut Russia off from Western financing will go into effect, promising to "go further" with measures if Russia continues what he called an "invasion" of Ukraine.
Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he recognized the independence of two pro-Russian regions located in Eastern Ukraine, prompting outrage from Western powers. Reports indicate that Putin had ordered Russian troops to enter the two breakaway regions — Donetsk and Luhansk.
During a speech Tuesday afternoon in response to Putin, Biden told the press that he considered Putin's words a "rationale" to justify taking "more territory by force," noting that the Russian president claimed additional territory in Ukraine.
"This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine," said Biden. "I'm going to begin to impose sanctions in response far beyond the steps we and our allies and partners implemented in 2014."
"If Russia goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further as with sanctions. Who in the Lord's name does Putin think gives him the right to declare new so-called 'countries' on territory that belong to his neighbors?"
Biden called Putin's actions a "flagrant violation of international law" that requires a "firm response from the international community," especially through sanctions.
"I'm announcing the first tranche of sanctions to impose costs on Russia in response to their actions yesterday," said Biden. "These have been closely coordinated with our allies and partners, and we'll continue to escalate sanctions if Russia escalates."
"We're implementing full blocking sanctions on two large Russian financial institutions, VEB and their military bank. We're implementing comprehensive sanctions on Russian sovereign debt. That means we've cut off Russia's government from Western finances. It can no longer raise money from the West."
Starting last November, Russia began placing troops on its border with Ukraine and in nearby allied nation Belarus. Experts estimate that as many as 150,000 soldiers are present.
For much of its history, Russia has controlled Ukraine either in part or in whole, with the eastern portion of the country having a sizable pro-Russian population.
This historic control has been brutal at times, such as during the 1930s when Soviet Union dictator Joseph Stalin's collectivist policies caused millions of Ukrainian deaths.
In 2014, Russia moved against Ukraine by annexing their strategic peninsula, Crimea, prompting sanctions and outrage from Western powers, including the United States.
Last week, evangelical leader Franklin Graham, who has met with Putin in the past, called on his supporters to pray that the Russian president will avoid war.
"This may sound like a strange request, and I might get some angry comments, but we need to pray that God would work in his heart so that war — and the loss of thousands of lives —could be avoided at all cost," posted Graham to Facebook.
"May God give wisdom to the leaders involved in these talks and negotiations, as well as those advising them. Our prayers might make the difference between life and death."