SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday assailed his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, led Democrat and Republican lawmakers in a rare display of unity in a State of the Union speech dominated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Let each of us if you’re able to stand, stand and send an unmistakable signal to Ukraine and to the world,” Biden urged Democrats and Republicans.
Biden asked lawmakers crowding the House chamber to stand and salute the Ukrainians as he began his speech.
Lawmakers stood together to applaud Ukraine, many waving Ukrainian flags and cheering in the chamber of the House of Representatives, according to Reuters.
It was a notable show of unity after a long year of bitter acrimony between Biden’s Democratic coalition and the Republican opposition, the Associated Press reported.
In Tuesday’s speech, Biden highlighted the bravery of Ukrainian defenders and a newly reinvigorated Western alliance that has worked to rearm the Ukrainian military and cripple Russia’s economy through sanctions.
“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson – when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos,” Biden said.
“They keep moving. And the costs and threats to America and the world keep rising,” he added.
As Biden spoke, Russian forces were escalating their attacks in Ukraine, having bombarded the central square of country’s second-largest city and Kyiv’s main TV tower, killing at least five people, according to AP.
Biden took aim at Putin, saying the Russian leader had badly miscalculated how events would unfold and that now “Russia’s economy is reeling and Putin is to blame”, Reuters reported.
“He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead he met a wall of strength he never imagined. He met the Ukrainian people,” he said. “From President Zelenskiy to every Ukrainian, their fearlessness, their courage, their determination, inspires the world.”
“While he make gains on the battlefield – he will pay a continuing high price over the long run,” Biden said, adding that, “He has no idea what’s coming”.
The U.S. president announced that the United States was following Canada and the European Union in banning Russian planes from its airspace in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine.
He said the Justice Department was launching a task force to go after Russian oligarchs, whom he called “corrupt leaders who have biked billions of dollars off this violent regime,” AP cited him as saying.
“We are coming for your ill-begotten gains,” he said, pledging that the U.S. and European allies were after their yachts, luxury apartments and private jets.
A senior U.S. defense official said on Tuesday that invading force’s advance on Kyiv has stalled due to logistics problems, including shortages of food and fuel, and some units appeared to have low morale.
Putin ordered the “special military operation” on February 24 in a bid to disarm Ukraine, capture the “neo-Nazis” he says are running the democratic country of 44 million people and crush its hopes of closer ties to the West.
Russia’s assault included strikes on Kyiv, though the heaviest bombardment appears to be around Ukraine’s second-largest city Kharkiv, near the border with Russia.
At least 21 people were killed and 112 wounded in shelling in Kharkiv in the last 24 hours, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.
West of Kyiv, in the city of Zhytomyr, four people, including a child, were killed on Tuesday by a Russian cruise missile, a Ukrainian official said.