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US President Joe Biden has announced a ban on Russian imports of oil and other energy sources, an important move to pressure President Vladimir Putin to end his devastating assault on Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has accused Russian forces of bombing a humanitarian corridor that Moscow had promised to open to allow residents to flee the besieged port of Mariupol. A deputy prime minister said the humanitarian situation there was dire.

The number of civilian deaths in the conflict has increased. And with the war in its 13th day, the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine to neighboring countries has exceeded 2 million.

People cook outside for Ukrainian military and civil defense service members in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, March 7, 2022. (AP)

“Russia can continue to grind its lead at a horrendous cost, but it’s already clear: Ukraine will never be a win for Putin,” Biden told reporters at the White House. “Putin may be able to take a city, but he can never hold the country,” he said.

Addressing the British parliament via video link, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the world to increase sanctions. He said his people would fight to the end against the Russian invaders but needed help, including no-fly zones. “The question for us now is to be or not to be,” Zelenskiy said, quoting Shakespeare. “I can give you a definitive answer: it definitely is.”

Lawmakers gave him a standing ovation, although at least one later said a no-fly zone was out of the question as it could lead to a wider European war. Western sanctions imposed following the invasion have already cut Russia off from world trade and financial markets. But Russia is the world’s largest exporter of oil and natural gas and until now these exports have been exempt from international sanctions.

Announcing the U.S. ban, Biden said, “It means Russian oil will no longer be acceptable in U.S. ports and the American people will deliver another mighty blow to Putin’s war machine.” The United States is not a major buyer of Russian oil, but Biden has worked with allies in Europe, who are much more dependent on it, to insulate Russia’s energy-intensive economy.

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of Russia’s State Duma parliament, said the moves would hurt Europe while helping the United States. “By promoting sanctions against Russian energy resources, Washington seeks to occupy the European market,” he said in an online message. Britain has announced that it will also phase out the import of Russian oil and petroleum products by the end of 2022.

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