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Putin's decision to recognize 2 breakaway regions in Ukraine triggers sanctions


The United Kingdom is set to announce new sanctions against Russia today. The U.S. has already announced a narrow set of sanctions against the two breakaway provinces in Ukraine backed by Russia. Vladimir Putin has sent Russian forces into those regions not to start a war, he says, but to keep the peace. That move also prompted an emergency late-night meeting of the United Nations Security Council. American Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield addressed members.


LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: President Putin is testing our international system. He is testing our resolve and seeing just how far he can push us all. He wants to demonstrate that through force, he can make a farce of the U.N. We must act together in response to this crisis.

MARTIN: So let's talk about what that response looks like. NPR's Jackie Northam has been following all the developments and joins us now. Hi, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: Let's start off with some news this morning. Germany's chancellor, Olaf Scholz, is reportedly putting the brakes on the Nord Stream 2. This is this very key pipeline deal with Russia. What can you tell us?

NORTHAM: Right. Well, this is a pipeline. It's - you know, it's $11 billion multiyear project in that - and it was finished, but it was just waiting to be certified. And Scholz, Chancellor Scholz, said today that it cannot go online under the current circumstances. And this is a big deal, Rachel, because natural gas helps prop up Russia's economy. And this was a direct pipeline from Russia to Germany, so it's going to be a huge loss of money for Russia.

MARTIN: Meanwhile, the U.K. and the U.S. have imposed sanctions in response to Russia's actions. How broad are these?

NORTHAM: Well, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. would unveil a barrage of sanctions. He didn't say what they were but that they would target Russian economic interests. And he said that there would be no place for Russian oligarchs to hide. The European Union is also preparing sanctions. So far, the U.S. is taking this limited approach, just sanctioning the two breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. And so that'll ban any Americans from doing business there or any trade. To be clear, though, again, these are really narrow sanctions and much different from the swift and severe ones that the U.S. and allies have been promising to impose on Russia for the past few weeks should it invade Ukraine and not just these breakaway regions. And they're holding off on those for now.

MARTIN: All right. OK, so what would those be, those broader sanctions?

NORTHAM: Right. They'd try and cripple Russia's economy - so going after Russia's biggest banks, preventing them from getting - being part of the global financial system, keeping any man-made - U.S.-made technology out of Russia's hands, things like that. Again, they're meant to hurt Russia's economy.

MARTIN: So what kind of line does Russia need to cross in order for the U.S. to justify those broader sanctions?

NORTHAM: You know, that's really unclear. A senior administration official said yesterday, you know, the next move by the U.S. and its allies all depends on what Russia does. So perhaps if Russia moves further into the Ukraine, this could spark more serious sanctions than the ones that we're just talking about this morning that they've carried out. And the U.S. is expected to announce another round of sanctions later today against Russia.

MARTIN: So now we've got Vladimir Putin and Russia acknowledging or declaring the independence of these two breakaway, separatist parts of Ukraine. And we've got all these sanctions in response to that. Russia has sent troops into the eastern part of Ukraine. Where is diplomacy in all this?

NORTHAM: You know, it's closing very quickly, the window on diplomacy to do that. Blinken, Secretary of State Blinken, was supposed to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday. No word if that'll happen.

MARTIN: NPR's Jackie Northam, thank you.

NORTHAM: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.

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