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The United States and European allies said Friday they were stepping up sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by adding measures directly targeting President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister, putting diplomatic appeals to one side as Russia’s forces closed on Ukraine’s capital.
The move by the U.S., the European Union and Britain sends “a clear message about the strength of the opposition to the actions” by Putin, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. On a day when explosions and gunfire were sounding in Kyiv’s capital, and Pope Francis went to Russia’s embassy in Rome to personally appeal for an end, the sanctions were part of growing global condemnation of the offensive.
Asked by reporters if U.S. President Joe Biden has planned any more direct diplomatic overtures toward Putin, whose ground and air forces are pushing an offensive on Ukraine’s key cities, Psaki said no.
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“I would say that a moment where a leader is … in the middle of invading a sovereign country is not the moment where diplomacy feels appropriate,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing. “It does not mean we have ruled out diplomacy forever.”
Psaki said the U.S. was preparing individual sanctions on Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, likely to include travel bans. The announcement came hours after the European Union announced it intended to freeze Putin’s assets, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told NATO leaders his country would also sanction Putin and Lavrov.
Psaki said the U.S. would also newly sanction the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which functions as a sovereign wealth fund meant to draw capital into the Russian economy.
READ MORE: Fleeing Russian onslaught, Ukrainians seek safety across western borders
The briefing also comes on the same day that Biden nominated federal appeals court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, the first Black woman selected to serve on a court that once declared her race unworthy of citizenship and endorsed American segregation.
Introducing Jackson at the White House earlier in the day, Biden declared, “I believe it’s time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation.”
READ MORE: Who is Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, Biden’s SCOTUS nominee?
With his nominee standing alongside, the president praised her as having “a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people.” He said, “She strives to be fair, to get it right, to do justice.”
In Jackson, Biden delivered on a campaign promise to make the historic appointment and further diversify a court that was made up entirely of white men for almost two centuries.
He also chose an attorney who would be the high court’s first former public defender, though she possesses the elite legal background of other justices as well.
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