This is the only reference to the latest news,apart from a Pravda-like report from Reuters, that Russia has closed off foreign and military vessels to the Azov Sea via the Kerch Strait (where they have a bridge between the Russian mainland and Crimea), effectively cutting Ukrainian military access to its ports, leaving Odessa, on the Black Sea.
Have a look at this disingenuous map which lists all the forces Russian has deployed to the region while neglecting to point out the 100,000 troops Ukraine has on the border, a provocation that gave rise to the Russian escalation.
Putin blocks ALL foreign warships from reaching Ukraine after Biden’s Black Sea U-Turn: Russia closes Kerch Strait after Joe sent two Navy battleships but then called them off
- Biden cancelled the deployment of two US warships from the Black Sea amid the troop build-up in Ukraine
- Washington announced the U-turn after the Kremlin warned D.C.to stay away ‘for their own good’
- ‘We have no desire to be in an escalating war with Russia,’ a senior administration official said
- Hours later, Putin took advantage of Biden’s U-turn back by closing off the Kerch Strait
- The move blocks any access to foreign warships to the Crimea until October 2021
- The Biden administration on Thursday announced sweeping new sanctions on Russian interference
- They kicked out 10 diplomats from the US Embassy and sanctioned 32 Russian individuals and entities
- Sanctions were imposed on ‘eight individuals and entities’ associated with the ‘ongoing repression in Crimea’
- The White House also denounced Moscow for offering the Taliban bounties for U.S. troops in Afghanistan
- Administration formally blamed Moscow for SolarWinds hack and accused Moscow of still trying to hack American targets
18 April, 2021
President Joe Biden cancelled the deployment of two US warships from the Black Sea despite warning Vladimir Putin there would be ‘repercussions’ for the troop build-up in Ukraine.
Last week, Turkey said Washington was sending two warships to the Black Sea, in a decision Russia called an unfriendly provocation.
But the Biden administration reversed the decision after the Kremlin warned them to ‘stay away for their own good’, and gave Putin the chance to ramp up his military presence in Crimea and near the Ukrainian border
White House officials decided not to send the ships to avoid needlessly escalating the situation with Russia over the Ukraine, a US defense official told Politico.
Hours later, Putin took advantage of Biden’s U-turn back by closing off the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia, blocking all foreign warships from getting to Ukraine until October 2021.
Ukraine said the move was an ‘act of war’ and were disappointed foreign destroyers had turned around before one of Moscow’s biggest escalations in the last 30 days.
The Kerch Strait is a crucial access for the Ukrainian ports of Mairupol and Berdyansk. Commercial ships will still be allowed to pass through, but the blockade leave the region vulnerable in the face of Russian aggression.
Washington’s change in the region came on the day Biden announced sweeping new sanctions against Moscow as the White House seeks to rein in Russian aggression while avoiding an all-out war with the Kremlin.
‘We have no desire to be in an escalating war with Russia,’ a senior administration official said Thursday on a briefing call with reporters, saying the White House doesn’t want things ‘spinning out of control.’
‘We do not seek a downward spiral. We can and think we can avoid that,’ the official said.
Officials made it clear, however, that the administration ‘will not accept [Russia’s] destabilizing behavior that harms the United States, its allies and its partners.
President Joe Biden cancelled the deployment of two US warships from the Black Sea despite warning Vladimir Putin there would be ‘repercussions’ for the troop build-up in Ukraine
Hours later, Putin took advantage of Biden’s U-turn back by closing off the Kerch Strait between Crimea and Russia, blocking all foreign warships from getting to Ukraine until October 2021. Ukraine said the move was an ‘act of war’ and were disappointed foreign destroyers had turned around before one of Moscow’s biggest escalations in the last 30 days
Putin is continuing to build up his forced on the border with Ukraine, as the government warns troops numbers could swell to 110,000 with 7,000 tanks and other vehicles in support
U.S. Navy guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61) sails in the Bosphorus, in Istanbul, Turkey
To give the sanctions teeth – in a way financial sanctions have not deterred Russia before – the US is seeking to choke off lending to the Russian government.
The US also expelled 10 diplomats in retaliation for the Kremlin’s interference in American elections, its aggressive actions in the Ukraine, and the SolarWinds cyber hack.
The Treasury Department and Western allies – including the UK and Canada – also targeted eight individuals and entities associated with the ‘ongoing occupation and repression in Crimea’.
‘The Transatlantic community stands united in supporting Ukraine against unilateral Russian provocations along the Line of Contact in eastern Ukraine, in occupied Crimea, and along Ukraine’s borders, as well as agreeing on the need for Russia to immediately cease its military buildup and inflammatory rhetoric,’ the White House said.
Manafort’s associate Konstantin Kilimnik sanctioned for passing polling data to the Kremlin
One of the individuals sanctioned Thursday by the U.S. government was Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-Ukrainian political consultant who worked with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as a lobbyist for the pro-Russia president of Ukraine.
Kilimnik was indicted in Robert Mueller’s 2018 investigation for carrying out election influence operations on behalf of Russian intelligence services.
The Senate Intelligence Committee assessed that Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer and found that Manafort passed him sensitive internal polling data and campaign strategy.
The Treasury Department, in its sanction’s notice, found that Kilimnik provided Russian intelligence “with sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” during the 2016 election.
Treasury noted that Kilimnik, who is wanted by the FBI on charges of obstruction of justice, helped promote the false narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. Kilimnik and his wife live in a heavily-fortified residence outside of Moscow.
Konstantin Kilimnik in a March 2006 photo
The White House also denounced Moscow for offering the Taliban bounties for U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan.
But a senior administration official noted the US intelligence community has only ‘low to moderate confidence’ that Russia offered bounties on American troops and isn’t imposing any punishment on Moscow for the possible action right now.
‘The United States Intelligence Community assesses with low to moderate confidence that Russian intelligence officers sought to encourage Taliban attacks against U.S. coalition personnel in Afghanistan in 2019, including through financial incentives and compensation,’ the official said.
Administration officials described its actions on Thursday as ‘tailored and proportional’ and reiterated it seeks a ‘predictable and stable’ relationship with Moscow.
In a series of actions on Thursday, the United States sanctioned 32 Russian entities and individuals along with six technology companies, formally attributed the SolarWinds cyber breach to Russian intelligence agencies, and accused Moscow of still trying to hack American targets.
‘The President signed this sweeping new authority to confront Russia’s continued and growing malign behavior,’ said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a statement. The Treasury Department is in charge of carrying out the sanctions.
‘Treasury is leveraging this new authority to impose costs on the Russian government for its unacceptable conduct, including by limiting Russia’s ability to finance its activities and by targeting Russia’s malicious and disruptive cyber capabilities,’ she said.
Biden signed an executive order Thursday morning authorizing the sanctions and expelling of diplomats, who the administration claims includes representatives of Russian intelligence services.
The administration specifically cites Russian interference in free and fair elections, its ‘malicious cyber activities’ against the United States, fostering corruption to influence foreign governments, targeting dissidents or journalists, undermining security in countries important to American national security and violating well-established principles of international law, including respect for the territorial integrity of states.
It also criticized Russian for offering the Taliban bounties on U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan but said that would be handled through diplomatic channels.
‘Given the sensitivity of this matter, which involves the safety and well-being of our forces, it is being handled through diplomatic, military and intelligence channels,’ the White House said in a statement.
President Biden announced on Wednesday he will remove all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11th.
The executive order also expanded an existing ban on US banks trading in Russian government debt. It prohibits U.S. financial institutions from buying new bonds directly from Russia’s central bank, finance ministry and the country’s massive sovereign-wealth fund after June 14.
The Kremlin said on Thursday it would respond in kind to any new ‘illegal’ new U.S. sanctions on Russia and said any new measures would reduce the chances of a summit between Biden and Putin taking place.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would wait to see what happened before commenting in detail.
‘We’re not going to speculate on what the Russian response will be,’ a senior Biden administration official said Thursday. ‘We will track closely the Russian response to this.’
Republicans on Capitol Hill praised Biden’s tough response.
‘I think this is a good step. Keep it up,’ said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
‘I applaud him,’ said Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. ‘And I think that’s all you have to say – he’s doing the right thing.’
The administration has been warning the actions are coming as President Biden takes a much harsher stance against Moscow than his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday to warn him.
‘He did not hold back on his concerns, including reiterating that there will be consequences to the actions that were taken. I expect you will know more about that soon,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the call on Wednesday.
In its Thursday announcement, the administration targeted six Russian technology companies it claims are supporting Kremlin intelligence agencies.
The administration also blamed – for the first time – Russian intelligence agencies for the SolarWinds cyber hack, which Moscow denies. The US said it had ‘high confidence’ the hack was masterminded by the SVR, one of the Russian intelligence agencies that was also involved in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee six years ago.
And the Biden criticized the Russian intelligence agencies for their involvement in the August 2020 poisoning of Aleksey Navalny and its targeting of Russian journalists.
Additionally, the National Security Agency on Thursday issued guidelines for companies on how to counter Russian cyber actions. The agency said it was taking such action to ‘highlight additional tactics, techniques, and procedures being used; by Russian intelligence agencies ‘so that network defenders can take action to mitigate against them.
The massive Russian hacking campaign – familiarly known as the SolarWinds breach -targeted at least nine vital federal agencies, including the Treasury, Justice, Energy and Homeland Security departments. The scale of the hack is still being determined.
The Kerch Strait (pictured in 2018) is a crucial access for the Ukrainian ports of Mairupol and Berdyansk. Commercial ships will still be allowed to pass through, but the blockade leave the region vulnerable in the face of Russian aggression
Ukrainian troops man trenches in the eastern Donbas region as the country’s foreign minister warns Moscow it will bear ‘very painful consequences’ if it invades