Biden Won’t Subsidize ‘Putin’s War,’ Bans Russian Energy Imports

U.S. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil and other energy imports on Tuesday in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine.

Poland said it would send its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany, presumably for Ukrainian pilots to use. In exchange, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked that the U.S. send Poland aircraft with similar operational capabilities.

Biden, noting that the ban on Russian oil would not come without cost to U.S. residents, said, “We will not be part of subsidizing (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war,”

In a tweet Tuesday, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Biden for “striking in the heart of Putin’s war machine” with his Russian energy ban.

Zelenskyy received a standing ovation from U.K. lawmakers, whom he addressed in a defiant speech via video. The Ukrainian leader evoked Britain’s World War II leader Winston Churchill as he vowed to “fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.”

Biden has been working with allies in Europe, who are far more dependent on Russian oil, to isolate the Russian president and Russia’s economy, which heavily relies on oil and gas exports.

Britain announced Tuesday that it would phase out the import of Russian oil and oil products by the end of 2022.

Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, praised Biden’s decision to ban Russian energy imports but told CNN the U.S. should do more for energy independence. 

He added that the Keystone XL pipeline, which Biden canceled permits for on the first day of his presidency, would have provided more barrels of oil per day than the amount the United States had imported from Russia.

Meanwhile, Poland said its air force was “ready to deploy — immediately and free of charge — all” of its MiG-29 jets to Ramstein Air Base, placing “them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America.”

“The Polish Government also requests other NATO Allies — owners of MiG-29 jets — to act in the same vein,” the Polish statement added.

Ukrainian military pilots fly the MiG-29, and top Ukrainian officials have asked other countries that operate the jet to transfer these jets to Ukraine for additional air power that would require minimal training.

Poland’s announcement appeared to catch the Biden administration off guard, with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland telling lawmakers this “was a surprise move by the Poles.”

Pentagon press secretary John F. Kirby added late Tuesday that the Pentagon did not “believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”

“The prospect of fighter jets ‘at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America’ departing from a U.S./NATO base in Germany to fly into airspace that is contested with Russia over Ukraine raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance. It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” according to the statement from Kirby, adding that the U.S. would “continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents.”

Civilians in some parts of Ukraine besieged by Russian forces were able to evacuate Tuesday, fleeing in buses or on foot amid temporary cease-fires. 

In one instance, people were seen leaving the eastern city of Sumy, where hours earlier a Russian airstrike on a residential street killed at least 21 civilians, according to local authorities.  

Russia’s Defense Ministry said additional evacuation corridors would be in place in Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol.  Several previous attempts to establish safe corridors for people to get out of areas attacked by Russia have failed.

Asked by VOA about Russian shelling of humanitarian corridors, a senior defense official told reporters Tuesday it was “disingenuous” of Russia to declare a humanitarian corridor that goes north into Belarus or Russia.

“Short of stopping the shelling, we and the rest of the international community call on Russia to allow for the safe passage out of city centers for Ukrainian citizens to other places in Ukraine, in their own country,” the official said, reiterating that “the United States is not going to become militarily involved in this fight in Ukraine.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday accused Russia of holding 300,000 people “hostage in Mariupol,” a city of about 430,000, and preventing humanitarian evacuations. 

“I urge all states to publicly demand: RUSSIA, LET PEOPLE GO!” Kuleba tweeted. 

The United Nations refugee agency said that more than 2 million people have fled Ukrainian cities as they run short of food, water, heat and medicine, sparking one of Europe’s worst refugee crises since World War II. More than half have gone to Poland. 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met French President Emanuel Macron in Paris Tuesday to discuss the allied response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and to coordinate efforts aimed at stopping Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, according to the State Department.

Russian forces remain stalled in the north and have not been able to move closer to the city center of Kyiv, according to a senior defense official. The official added that Russia was now trying a second advance on Kyiv from the east, with forces in this new line of attack about 60 kilometers away from the city.

In testimony to lawmakers about a worldwide threat, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said, “Putin is unlikely to be deterred by such setbacks and instead may escalate.”

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns also cautioned during the Capitol Hill hearing Tuesday that he believes “Putin is angry and frustrated” and “likely to double down and try to grind down the Ukrainian military with no regard for civilian casualties.”

Kuleba and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov were due to meet Thursday in Turkey to discuss the situation. Kuleba said he will propose a direct meeting between Zelenskyy and Putin. 

Congressional correspondent Katherine Gypson, national security correspondent Jeff Seldin, Istanbul foreign correspondent Heather Murdock and senior diplomatic correspondent Cindy Saine contributed to this report.  

Some information also came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and Reuters. 

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