President Biden pelted Russia with sanctions on Friday after President Vladimir Putin signed sham treaties nominally annexing four provinces in southern and eastern Ukraine, plunging global tensions over the seven-month-old invasion to a new low.
The sweeping American sanctions target 278 members of the Russian Parliament, a trio of Russian government leaders - including the governor of the Central Bank of Russia - and family members of Russian officials, according to the Treasury Department. More than 900 Russians faced new visa restrictions, the U.S. said.
Putin marked Russia's attempted annexation, which came with Russia reeling on the battlefield following a lightning advance by Ukraine in the north, with a fiery speech accusing the West of a "colonial" mentality. He declared citizens in the four regions of Ukraine were "becoming our citizens forever."
"We are going to defend our country," Putin said. "The West is hoping that they will remain unpunished."
In a statement, Biden said that Russia was running roughshod over international law and displaying "contempt for peaceful nations everywhere," describing the Kremlin's annexation claims as "phony."
"Make no mistake: these actions have no legitimacy," the president said in the stern statement. "We will rally the international community to both denounce these moves and to hold Russia accountable."
Biden pledged in the statement to continue to arm Ukraine against Russia's "brazen effort to redraw the borders of its neighbor" and said he looked forward to approving $12 billion in aid for the beleaguered nation included in a stopgap funding bill expected to pass the House on Friday.
Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, spoke with NATO's secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, on Friday about the annexation bid by Russia, according to the White House. And Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Friday he had signed an application for expedited entry into NATO.
Putin has described NATO as a terminal threat to his country, and cited the threat of Ukraine joining the 30-nation military alliance as a justification for Russia's bloody attack on its western neighbor.
In recent days, the Russian president has issued thinly veiled threats about nuclear warfare in response to any efforts to battle for the regions of Ukraine he now claims. Sullivan has said Russia would face "catastrophic consequences" if the Kremlin uses any nuclear weapons.
The rhetoric has amounted to an alarming escalation in tension between Washington and Moscow. Dialogue between the two nations largely ruptured after Putin sent his army on a failed mission to seize Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, in February.
Now, Putin has laid claim to a bridge of provinces connecting Russia with Crimea, the peninsula on Ukraine's south that Russia seized in 2014. The attempted landgrab covers the provinces of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
American sanctions uncorked in response to Russia's moves targeted Elvira Sakhipzadovna Nabiullina, governor of the Central Bank of Russia, and Olga Nikolaevna Skorobogatova, her first deputy, according to the Treasury Department.
The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, said in a statement that the U.S. would not "stand by as Putin fraudulently attempts to annex parts of Ukraine."
And Biden issued a call to the world to stand against the Kremlin's claims.
"I urge all members of the international community to reject Russia's illegal attempts at annexation," Biden said in his statement, "and to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes."