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MOSCOW — The U.S. issued its first sanctions on Russia Tuesday for what President Joe Biden described as the start of an invasion of Ukraine, following actions to punish the Kremlin imposed by the European Union and Germany.
Biden said in a Tuesday news conference the "first tranche" of sanctions would cut off Russia from western financial institutions in order to halt the country's access to international loans and the financial assistance it relies on.
Biden said the U.S. on Wednesday would start to impose sanctions against Russian "elites" and their families who profit from its military. More sanctions could occur if Moscow continues its aggression, the president added.
Several European leaders said earlier in the day Russian troops have moved into rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recognized their independence.
“Russia just announced that it is carving out a big chunk of Ukraine,” Biden said. “He’s setting up a rationale to take more territory by force, in my view. This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
U.S. forces and military equipment already stationed in Europe will be redeployed to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, Biden said Tuesday after Russia confirmed it would not withdraw forces in Belarus. Biden called the shifting of resources "totally defensive" and said "We have no intention of fighting Russia."
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also alluded to the Russian action as being an invasion in a Twitter post commenting on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline in response to Russia’s actions.
For weeks, Western powers have been bracing for an invasion as Russia massed an estimated 150,000 troops on three sides of neighboring Ukraine. They warned an attack would cause massive casualties, energy shortages in Europe and economic chaos around the globe – and promised swift and severe sanctions if it materialized. The European Union and Britain announced Tuesday that some of those measures were coming.
As for the U.S., Finer on CNN said "sanctions on Russia will be rolling out in a matter of hours."
Looking for the latest news and deeper background on the conflict? Read on for USA Today's coverage.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Russia-Ukraine crisis explained after US calls tmovements an invasion