West hits back with sanctions as Russia pushes into Ukraine

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BRUSSELS (AP) — The U.S. and all 27 European Union member nations are ordering initial penalties targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine. U.S. President Joe Biden announced sanctions of Russian financial institutions and oligarchs on Tuesday for what he called “the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Biden declared he was responding to what he said was Moscow flagrantly violating international law. The U.S. president said he was also moving additional U.S. troops to the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank.

Biden made his comments shortly after Russian lawmakers authorized President Vladimir Putin to use military force outside their country — in Ukraine. Biden joined the 27 European Union members who unanimously agreed on Tuesday to levy their own initial set of sanctions targeting Russian officials over their actions in Ukraine.

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said a package approved by member nations would affect members of Russia’s lower house of parliament and other individuals involved in approving the deployment of Russian troops to separatist-held regions of eastern Ukraine.

Germany announced it would halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia — a massive, lucrative deal long sought by Moscow.