Vice President Kamala Harris on Friday said the U.S. will take more action to ensure Russian President Vladimir Putin faces “serious consequence” for his “atrocious and outrageous conduct on behalf of the Russian people.”
President Biden and administration officials have maintained that actions to hold the Kremlin accountable for the war in Ukraine are “not targeting the people of Russia.” Biden told the Russian people in February, “You are not our enemy. And I do not believe you want a bloody, destructive war against Ukraine.”
During a joint press conference in Bucharest, Romania, Friday alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Harris said it is “painful” to watch what is happening to Ukrainians.”
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“We are clear that any intentional attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime, period,” Harris said.
“It is painful to watch what is happening to innocent people in Ukraine who just want to live in their own country and have pride in themselves as Ukrainians who want to be home speaking the language they know,” Harris said.
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The vice president maintained, though, that “diplomacy is the way to resolve these issues that coexists with our commitment to ensure that our allies are strong and that there must be serious consequence and accountability for what Russia is doing.”
Harris pointed to economic sanctions the U.S. and NATO have imposed on Russia, which have led to “the effect of basically a free fall of the ruble.”
“The Russian stock market is still not open. Their credit rating is now junk,” Harris said. “There will be more announcements about more action that we will take to ensure serious consequence for what is atrocious and outrageous conduct on behalf of the Russian people by Putin.”
Harris’ comment comes after the White House had insisted the measures taken against Putin and the Kremlin are “not targeting” the people of Russia.
When asked for clarification on Harris saying Putin is acting “on behalf of the Russian people,” a White House official told Fox News Digital that she “was referring to the economic measures we are taking are targeted at Putin and those complicit.”
“That remains the case,” the official said.
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Earlier this month, the White House National Security Council condemned Putin’s moves to shut down Russian media outlets, block social media and restrict Russian access to international news outlets, as well as the Russian Federation Council’s approval of a law that threatened prison sentences of up to 15 years for journalists and ordinary citizens that would spread so-called “false” information about Putin’s “unconscionable” war in Ukraine.
The NSC, at the time, said it will “continue to work with and support all like-minded partners” and said it “stand[s] with the sovereign nation and people of Ukraine, and with the citizens of Russia speaking out against Putin’s war by the thousands.”
The Biden administration, in coordination with allies and partners, has imposed severe economic sanctions on Russia ahead of and following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, crippling the Russian economy.
This week, the president announced a ban on all Russian oil, gas and energy imports to the United States in a move to target the “main artery” of Russia’s economy.
Meanwhile, as for any new sanctions from the West, Iohannis said Romania and the United States “stand strong together” and “will continue this way.”
“So if new sanctions will be necessary, they will be discussed and applied,” Iohannis said during the press conference.
“We take very seriously our role and the relationships that we have within the NATO alliance,” Harris maintained Friday. “We take seriously and are prepared to act on the words we speak when we say an attack against one is an attack against all.”
She added: “We are firm in our commitment. When I say and we say over and over again, President Joe Biden says, we will defend every inch of NATO territory.”
As for hopes for diplomacy with Russia, Harris reminded that the U.S. “has been attempting sincerely to engage in diplomacy actively.”
“From everything that we know and have witnessed, Putin shows no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy,” Harris said.