BRUSSELS (AP) — World leaders Thursday condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “barbaric” and moved to slap unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow and those close to President Vladimir Putin.
The West and its allies showed no inclination to send troops into Ukraine — a non-member of NATO — and risk a wider European war. But NATO reinforced its member states in Eastern Europe as a precaution against an attack on them, too.
“Make no mistake: We will defend every ally against any attack on every inch of NATO territory,” said NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Around the world, the outbreak of fighting sent stocks tumbling and oil prices surging on fears of higher costs for food and fuel.
Countries from Japan, South Korea and Australia to Western Europe and the U.S. lined up to condemn the attack and began taking steps to isolate Moscow in hopes of forcing it to pay so high a price that it changes course.
As the first major world leader to make a big move, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a freeze on the assets of all large Russian banks and plans to bar Russian companies and the Kremlin from raising money on British markets.
Britain will also ban the export to Russia of a wide range of high-tech products, including semiconductors, and prohibit the nation’s flagship airline, Aeroflot, from landing at British airports.
Johnson called the attack “hideous and barbaric” and said of Putin: “Now we see him for what he is — a bloodstained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest.”
Canada imposed sanctions that will target 58 people and entities, including members of Russia’s elite and their families, the paramilitary Wagner Group and major Russian banks. The punitive measures, announced after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attended a virtual meeting of G-7 industrialized nations, will also affect members of the Russian Security Council, including key cabinet ministers.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Stoltenberg likewise called the invasion a “barbaric” attack on an independent nation that threatened “the stability in Europe and the whole of the international peace order.” The European Union scheduled an emergency summit in Brussels to consider sanctions.
Von der Leyen said she would propose “massive and targeted sanctions” that would block the country’s access to key technologies and financial markets and freeze Russian assets in Europe.
“We want to cut off Russia’s industry from the technologies desperately needed today to build the future,” von der Leyen said.
In the days before the attack, Germany suspended approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, and the EU imposed sanctions against hundreds of Russian lawmakers and other officials and institutions from the defense and banking worlds.
In a similar bid to fend off an invasion, U.S. President Joe Biden announced sanctions over the past few days against Russian banks and oligarchs and warned of even heavier penalties in the event of an attack.
Biden convened a morning meeting Thursday of his National Security Council to deal with the crisis.
Separately, the U.N. is expected to vote Friday on a resolution condemning Russia and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all its forces. But Moscow is certain to veto the measure.
Von der Leyen insisted all Western powers were in lockstep on the crisis. Even Hungary, an often recalcitrant member of the EU, promptly condemned the attack, raising hopes that the 27 states would quickly achieve the required unanimity for the sanctions package.
Highlighting a widening rift in superpower relations, China stood alone in failing to condemn the attack and instead accused the United States and its allies of worsening the crisis.
In a clear defense of Moscow, China “called on parties to respect others’ legitimate security concerns.”
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that “all parties should work for peace instead of escalating the tension or hyping up the possibility of war” — language China has consistently used to criticize the West in the crisis.
China went further and approved imports of wheat from Russia, a move that could reduce the impact of Western sanctions. Russia, one of the biggest wheat producers, would be vulnerable if foreign markets were closed off.
Oil prices climbed by more than $5 per barrel. Brent crude briefly jumped above $100 per barrel in London for the first time since 2014 over fears of a disruption of supplies from Russia, the No. 3 producer.
The possible repercussions extended well beyond economics and geopolitics. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worried that the crisis will further distract global attention from helping the world’s least vaccinated continent fight COVID-19.
Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine