WASHINGTON (AFP) – The U.S. President Joe Biden issued strong new penalties against Russia on Tuesday for “starting” an invasion of Ukraine, but said there was still time to prevent conflict, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin signalled preparations to push soldiers beyond Russia’s borders.

The Federation Council, Russia’s upper house, unanimously approved Putin’s deployment of “peacekeepers” to two breakaway Ukrainian regions now recognised as independent by Moscow, as well as perhaps other parts of Ukraine.

Biden declared the “first tranche” of penalties, which include attempts to deprive Russia of funds and target financial institutions and its “elites.”

He did, however, leave the door open for a last-ditch diplomatic attempt to prevent a horrific full-scale Russian invasion.

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