fb-pixel Skip to main content

Biden vows to ‘hold Russia accountable’ and Congress calls for tougher sanctions

US President Biden speaks during a virtual event on mineral supply chains in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022.Samuel Corum/Bloomberg

President Biden plans to impose what he called “severe sanctions” against Russia on Thursday during a public address on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as explosions rocked cities across the country and signaled what the president described as an “unprovoked and unjustified attack.”

“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.”


Biden and his top aides have said for days that they would issue more sweeping economic penalties if Russia escalated the conflict in Ukraine and tried to seize more territory in the country — a prospect that became a reality on Thursday. Those penalties could include severing Russia’s top banks from the financial system, cutting off technology exports or imposing sanctions on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and his top officials directly.

The administration had already imposed an initial slate of sanctions, hoping to deter the Russian leader from a larger incursion. But after Putin announced the military operation, Biden and lawmakers from both parties in Congress denounced the move and signaled support for a more aggressive response.

Biden spoke to President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and briefed him on the steps Washington was taking to rally international condemnation.

“He asked me to call on the leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine,” Biden said.

Before his address on Thursday afternoon, Biden will meet with leaders of the Group of 7 conference of industrialized nations.

The White House and European allies unveiled an initial slate of economic penalties this week after Putin recognized the self-declared separatist states in eastern Ukraine and Russian forces started rolling into their territory. On Tuesday, Biden imposed penalties on two Russian banks and several members of the Russian elite, and prohibited Russia from trading debt in American or European markets. On Wednesday, the administration issued sanctions against the company behind an energy pipeline connecting Russia to Germany.


Putin’s declaration set off a rare moment of bipartisan ire in Congress as lawmakers in both parties called on Biden to swiftly enact new, debilitating sanctions on Russia.

“Every option must be placed on the table to stop Putin’s malevolence that not only threatens Ukraine and Eastern Europe, but the security of all liberal democracies around the globe,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “Putin chose a path to war, and he must now suffer the consequences.”

Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, had pressed the Biden administration for weeks to enact a sweeping array of sanctions on Moscow, on activities including the Russian gas pipeline. He warned that the repercussions .Putin would face would be “painful and swift.”

The House and the Senate are out of session, with lawmakers working from their districts across the country, but senators are expected to receive a briefing on the situation from the Biden administration Thursday afternoon. And even outside of Washington, before the invasion, a bipartisan group of senators had been working to reach agreement on a new set of sanctions targeting Moscow.


“For more than 70 years, we have avoided large-scale war in Europe,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. “With his illegal invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has tragically brought decades of general peace to an end.”