US President Joe Biden announced Friday that the US, along with the G7 and European Union, will call for revoking “most favored nation” status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations in the US.
Biden said the move would hold Russian President Vladimir Putin “even more accountable for his aggression against Ukraine.”
“Each of our nations will take steps to deny ‘most favored nation’ status to Russia. A most favored nation status designation means two countries have agreed to trade with each other under the best possible terms — low tariffs, few barriers to trade and the highest possible imports allowed,” Biden said.
The US President explained what the move means: “In the United States, we call this permanent normal trade relations, PNTR, but it’s the same thing. Revoking PNTR for Russia is going to make it harder for Russia to do business with the United States and doing it in unison with other nations that make up half of the global economy will be another crushing blow to the Russian economy that’s already suffering very badly from our sanctions.”
The step requires an act of Congress. Following Biden’s announcement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will take the legislation next week “to formalize this revocation, and it is our hope that it will receive a strong, bipartisan vote.”
The move was one of multiple new actions on trade expected to be made by the Biden administration toward Russia. The United States will also ban imports of alcohol and seafood, such as vodka and caviar, from Russia, a White House official told CNN.
Each country is expected to implement this measure based on its own national processes. Sources familiar with the move made note of congressional efforts to revoke Russia’s permanent normal trade relations. Congress is expected to introduce legislation following Biden’s announcement.
CNN reported Thursday that bipartisan talks in the Senate had been taking shape to take more aggressive action on Russia’s trade status — after the White House effectively watered down the House-passed bill banning importing Russian oil, natural gas and coal into the US.
Read more about the announcement here.
US President Joe Biden warned on Friday that Russia will pay a “severe price” if the country uses chemical weapons in Ukraine.
“I’m not going to speak about the intelligence, but Russia will pay a severe price if they use chemicals,” Biden told CNN’s Arlette Saenz following remarks announcing further sanctions and export controls against Russia.
The US government has previously found that the Russian government used chemical weapons in both the 2020 poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny and in 2018 against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in England.
Both determinations by the US led to sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, which requires the President to impose economic and diplomatic sanctions if a country is found to have used chemical weapons.
Additionally, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, whose regime is supported by Russia, used chemical weapons in an attack in 2017.
US President Joe Biden said the G7 is adding sanctions to more Russian oligarchs and their families as the invasion of Ukraine continues.
“The G7 also stepping up pressure on corrupt Russian billionaires. We’re adding new names to the list of oligarchs and their families that we’re targeting, and we’re increasing coordination among the G7 countries to target and capture their ill-begotten gains,” Biden said at the White House.
“They support Putin. They steal from the Russian people, and they seek to hide their money in our countries. They’re part of that kleptocracy that exists in Moscow, and they must share in the pain of these sanctions,” he said.
Biden said Russian imports of seafood, vodka and diamonds will be banned.
“While we’re going after their super-yachts and their vacation homes, and worth hundreds of millions of dollars, we’re also going to make it harder for them to buy high-end products manufactured in our country, banning the export of luxury goods to Russia. They’re also the latest steps we’re taking, but they’re not the last steps we’re going to take,” he continued.
US President Joe Biden said he spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today.
“I told him, as I have each and every time we’ve spoken, that the United States stands with the people of Ukraine and as they bravely fight to defend their country, and they are doing that,” he said at the White House.
“As Putin continues his merciless assault, the United States and allies and partners continue to work in lockstep to ramp up the economic pressures on Putin and to further isolate Russia on the global stage. Later today, together with other NATO allies and the G7, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, as well as European Union, we’re going to jointly announce several new steps to squeeze [Russian President] Putin and hold him even more accountable for his aggression against Ukraine,” Biden said.
Zelensky also tweeted: “Had a substantive conversation with @POTUS. Gave him the assessment of the situation on the battlefield, informed about the crimes of Russia against the civilian population. We agreed on further steps to support the defense of Ukraine and increase sanctions against Russia.”
US President Joe Biden is speaking from the White House and is expected to announce that the US, along with the G7 and European Union, will call for revoking “most favored nation” status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations in the US, sources familiar with the move tell CNN.
The move requires an act of Congress.
Each country is expected to implement this measure based on its own national processes. The sources made note of congressional efforts to revoke Russia’s permanent normal trade relations.
More background: CNN reported Thursday that bipartisan talks in the Senate had been taking shape to take more aggressive action on Russia’s trade status — after the White House effectively watered down the House-passed bill banning importing Russian oil, natural gas and coal into the US.
The earlier version of the legislation had included a provision that would suspend permanent normal trade relations for Russia and Belarus. But the White House expressed concerns over that part of the bill, and ultimately it was excised. The bill banning Russian energy imports that passed the House Wednesday night instead simply called for a review of Russia’s status in the World Trade Organization.
The Kremlin has said volunteers from the “Middle East and Syria” can be sent to fight for Russia in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, claiming that over 16,000 applications have been received from abroad.
At a televised meeting of Russia’s Security Council on Friday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that his ministry has received “a huge number of applications” from volunteers in various countries to “participate in what they consider to be a liberation movement.”
Putin supported Shoigu’s suggestion of helping to transfer volunteers willing to fight in the self-declared Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, the separatist-held territories in eastern Ukraine.
“If you see that there are people who want on a voluntary basis, especially not for money, to come and help people living in Donbas, well, we need to welcome them and help them move to the war zone,” Putin said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said later on Friday that there were no plans to send Russian volunteers to fight, and that Shoigu “mainly spoke about volunteers and applicants from the Middle East and Syria.”
The United States has not seen the “actual arrival” of foreign fighters from the Middle East to fight alongside Russian forces in Ukraine, a senior US defense official told reporters on Friday.
The US believes Russia is moving in the direction of recruiting and using foreign fighters, and Russia has publicly acknowledged they want to do this, but the US has not seen evidence of foreign fighters coming to fight alongside Russian forces at this point, the official said.
CNN’s Ellie Kaufman contributed reporting to this post.
Ukraine’s defense ministry has alleged that Russia plans to carry out some sort of terrorist attack at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, which is now under the control of Russian forces.
It is the latest in a series of claims made by Ukrainian authorities about the risks to Ukraine’s nuclear power infrastructure because of Russia’s invasion, none of which has come to pass.
The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence claimed on its Facebook page Friday that “the available intelligence says Putin has ordered that his troops to prepare a terror attack at Chernobyl for which the Russian invaders will try to blame Ukraine.”
The directorate also repeated that the plant “remains completely disconnected from the monitoring systems run by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”
The IAEA said last week that it had not been able to re-establish communication with systems installed to monitor nuclear material and activities at either the Chernobyl or Zaporizhzhia plants following the loss of remote data transmissions from those systems.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said Thursday that the situation at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, occupied by the Russian forces, was degrading as the IAEA was losing “a significant amount of information” on safeguarding monitoring systems.
However, he said he was “quite encouraged […] on one important thing, is that Ukraine and Russian Federation want to work with us, they agree to work with us.”
Grossi met the foreign ministers of both Russia and Ukraine on Thursday.
The Ukrainian nuclear regulatory authority has alleged that personnel at the Chernobyl site “have limited opportunities to communicate, move and carry out full-fledged maintenance and repair work.”
The IAEA said Thursday it had been unable to confirm that power has been restored at the plant.
On Friday, Ukraine’s nuclear power regulator repeated that the electricity supply to the Chernobyl nuclear power station had not been restored, despite claims by Russia and Belarus it was restored on Thursday.
“All objects of Chernobyl Power station located in the exclusion zone continue to be under the control of the aggressor’s military. There is still no electricity supply at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant since 11:22 on 9,03.2022, on or any communication with the personnel on site,” according to a statement posted Friday on the regulator’s website.
“Regulatory control over the state of nuclear and radiation safety at the Chernobyl NPP site and the exclusion zone territory, as well as control of nuclear materials at the enterprise, is impossible,” it said.
But it noted that a reserve supply of diesel fuel had been provided “to secure emergency power supply to spent nuclear fuel storage facilities.”
The IAEA said earlier this week that there has been “no critical impact” to the safety of Chernobyl, despite loss of power. It tweeted that the “heat load of spent fuel storage pool and volume of cooling water at #Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant sufficient for effective heat removal without need for electrical supply.”
The site has backup emergency diesel generators available should there be a total loss of power.
But Grossi said earlier this week: “I remain gravely concerned about the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, especially about the country’s nuclear power plants, which must be able to continue operating without any safety or security threats.”
And he stressed the “utmost importance that the staff working at the Specialized Enterprise Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant are able to do their job safely and effectively, and that their personal well-being is guaranteed by those who have taken control.”
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence also alleged Friday that Russian forces had denied a Ukrainian repair team access to Chernobyl. It claimed without offering evidence that “Belarusian specialists” went there posing as nuclear power experts and that Russian saboteurs were arriving to set up a terror attack.
The ministry claimed that “without receiving the desired result from the ground military operation and direct talks, Putin is ready to resort to nuclear blackmail of the international community.”
Both Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly claimed without substantiation that the other side is planning to provoke an incident involving nuclear, chemical or biological agents.
US Vice President Kamala Harris said Vladimir Putin isn’t interested in “serious diplomacy.”
Speaking in Romania, Harris said the United States is committed to finding a diplomatic solution. But she didn’t sound optimistic that Moscow was currently seeking one.
“From the beginning, the United States has been attempting sincerely to engage in diplomacy,” she said. “From everything that we know and have witnessed, Putin shows no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy.”
She said Russia was engaging in “lies” and “misinformation,” a playbook she said the US had long identified.
She said that as efforts for diplomacy proceed, Russia should be held accountable for its actions.
“We maintain that diplomacy is the way to resolve these issues,” she said, saying that should “coexist with our commitment to ensure that our alliances are strong, and that there must be serious consequence and accountability for what Russia is doing.”
Three flights carrying at least 600 Indian students who were evacuated from the city of Sumy in northeastern Ukraine landed in New Delhi from Poland on Friday.
The students were trapped in the northeastern city since the beginning of Russia’s military invasion in Ukraine and had sent out several appeals for their evacuation to the Indian mission and government.
On Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine to try and speed up their safe exit.
The Indian government has operated 90 evacuation flights from Ukraine — both commercial and military — since Russia’s invasion began, and over 20,000 Indians have left the country.