Symbolic pressure on Russia increases in the United States, but supporters want more | Russian-Ukrainian crisis

Washington D.C.- Yaro Hetman says he wants the United States to do more for Ukraine, as Russia stepped up its attacks on the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and advanced on the capital, Kyiv, on Tuesday.

Yetman, who moved to the United States from Ukraine when he was nine, has been leading protests outside the White House since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine late last week. The military assault, now in its sixth day, has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes and has drawn international condemnation and a host of sanctions, including against Russia’s biggest banks.

But Yetman told Al Jazeera that such actions will do little to stop Russia’s advance. “They will never be enough to cripple the Russian war machine. That’s why we call the president [Joe] Biden must keep his promise and impose crippling – not token – sanctions,” he said, calling for Moscow to be removed from the SWIFT banking system.

Yetman then told the crowd of protesters in the US capital: “We are grateful for all the support so far. We need more.”

(Al Jazeera)

US sanctions

Alongside its European allies, the Biden administration has imposed sanctions on major Russian banks as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for what he describe as “the unwarranted, unprovoked and premeditated invasion of Ukraine” by the Kremlin.

Ukraine has urged the West to consider imposing a ‘no-fly zone’ to stop Russian attacks, but the White House has dismissed the idea, saying it could lead to ‘direct conflict’ unwanted between Washington and Moscow.

According to a CNN poll conducted on February 25 and 26 – the early days of the Russian invasion – 83% of respondents said they supported increased economic sanctions against Russia, while 62% said they wanted Washington to do more to stop Moscow’s military operation.

Pressure is also mounting in Congress, said John Herbst, the former US ambassador to Ukraine. “Both parties in Congress have been tougher on Russia … than the Biden administration,” said Herbst, now senior director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center, adding that may be one reason why the White House has now tightened its sanctions.

“Public pressure can be part of that,” Herbst told Al Jazeera.

A woman is holding a sign saying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sparked international condemnation and protests [Shuran Huang/Reuters]

The imposition of major sanctions against Moscow, the arms supplied by the United States and its allies to Ukraine and the NATO forces deployed in Eastern Europe have been among the strongest measures taken so far. present in response to the Russian invasion, Herbst said.

But the single action that many experts agree would have the most crippling economic impact on Russia is not something the US government or the US public supports, he added: sanctions on the oil and natural gas. “I don’t think we’re going to see any sanctions on the energy sector because the [Biden] the administration is concerned about the price of gasoline,” Herbst said.

Symbolic gestures

Yet amid widespread public anger over Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, a multitude of symbolic gestures have been made at local and state levels across the United States in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and against the Russian advance.

Crowds marched at rallies in New York and other major cities; American landmarks such as the Empire State Building were lit in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, and several states banned the sale or import of Russian-made vodka.

Tom Wolf, Governor of Pennsylvania, one of the US states to ban the sale of Russian vodka, said the move was “a show of solidarity and support for the Ukrainian people and an expression of our collective revulsion at the unprovoked actions of the Russian state”.

While more than 75 million nine-liter cases of vodka were sold in the United States in 2020, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, many observers have pointed out that the ban is largely symbolic – and will have an effect. limited economy on Moscow. .

“The amount of Russian vodka in the United States is less than 1%,” Mif Frank, who owns several liquor stores in the state of Ohio, told Al Jazeera, noting, however, that the ban was ” the right thing to do”.

Meanwhile, a number of US states are taking or considering taking action against Russia in areas under their control.

New York Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul signed an executive order barring the state from doing business with Russia, for example, while North Carolina Democratic Governor Roy Cooper ordered the offices of the State to terminate government contracts with Russian companies.

Cultural and sports boycotts

American sports, cultural and business entities have also stepped up their actions against Russia.

New York’s Metropolitan Opera said it would not work with artists or institutions that have expressed support for Russian President Putin, while Disney said it would suspend theatrical releases in Russia. Sony Pictures Entertainment and Warner Brothers also said they would take similar action.

FedEx and UPS said over the weekend they would halt deliveries to Russia and Ukraine amid the fighting, and major tech companies such as Facebook restricted access to Russian state media in the European Union due to concerns about misinformation.

On Monday, the National Hockey League (NHL) announced it was suspending ties with business partners in Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as suspending its social and digital media sites in Russian. “Furthermore, we are ceasing to consider Russia as a location for future competitions involving the NHL,” the league said in a statement. declaration.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine expressed thanks for the measures imposed so far by the international community, but called on U.S. companies to take further action.

“I know how difficult it is, and I know it’s business interests,” Ambassador Oksana Markarova told ABC This Week, “but I think it’s time to think about saving reputations and not to cooperate with a regime that will end up in The Hague for everything they have done and are doing now in Ukraine.

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