MS PORTER: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us. Also I thank you for your patience as we have had some scheduling changes today. I just have a few updates at the top and then we’ll resume with Q&A.
As the President announced today, the United States, in coordination with allies and partners, is targeting additional Russian elites, as well as their family members, who continue supporting President Putin, despite his brutal invasion of Ukraine. We’re also targeting their financial networks and assets, major Russian disinformation outlets that contribute to the destabilizing – destabilization of Ukraine, and defense enterprises of the Russian Federation as well as Belarus for supporting Putin’s war of choice. These actions by the Department of State and the Department of the Treasury target some of the wealthiest Russian elites close to Putin and influential Russian executives. Additionally, the Department of Commerce is imposing export controls on oil and gas extraction equipment that support Russia’s refining capacity.
We are also announcing a new visa restriction on certain Russian oligarchs, their family members, and their close associates, who enable Russia’s destabilizing foreign policy. These actions make it clear that there is nowhere to hide for individuals and entities that support Russia’s flagrant aggression against Ukraine.
Next, Secretary Blinken departed today for Brussels, where he will meet with our NATO, European Union, and G7 allies and partners to continue our coordination and express our appreciation on the unprecedented steps that have been made to – taken to support Ukraine and to hold Russia to account. The Secretary will also reaffirm our Article 5 commitment that any attack on any NATO member is an attack on us all.
Following Brussels, he will travel to Poland, which is already hosting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, with tens of thousands arriving by the day, and Moldova, which is hosting Ukrainian refugees and where Russian troops have been occupying territory against the will of the people for years. The Secretary will then travel to the Baltic region, with stops in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, where he will discuss our efforts to support Ukraine, strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense, and other areas of shared interest with our Baltic allies.
As President Biden said in the State of the Union address, the response to Russia’s war has been unity – unity among world leaders, unity in Europe, unity among people gathering around the world to protest President Putin’s war of choice, including thousands of people in Russia and Belarus coming out to protest peacefully, even though they know they’re at risk in doing so. The Secretary’s travel continues our extensive consultations and coordination with our NATO Allies and European partners about Russia’s continued premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine.
And finally, for some good news, I’d like to highlight the latest milestone in our global COVID-19 response. On December 2nd, President Biden announced that the United States would accelerate our COVID-19 vaccine donations by sharing 200 million safe and effective vaccine doses in 100 days, free of cost. This was an ambitious goal, requiring incredible coordination with other governments, vaccine producers, COVAX, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, and many other critical partners. As of today, we’ve delivered on the President’s promise and we’ve done that ahead of schedule. The United States has donated 200 million vaccine doses in 91 days.
These 200 million doses are a part of more than 480 million doses that have been shared with 112 countries and economies, and we’re not done yet. We will continue to work tirelessly to reach the President’s commitment to share 1.2 billion doses, to get shots in arms, and to save lives.
Let’s go to Janne Pak, please.
QUESTION: First question is Russian ambassador to South Korea expressed regret for the South Korean Government participation in sanctions against Russia, and he also pressured (inaudible) the Korean Peninsula issues, including promoting the gas pipeline project jointly by Russia and South Korea and North Korea. How do you assess on this?
Secondly, the China and North Korea are not participating in sanctions against Russia. Will there be any other sanctions on them? Thank you very much.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Janne. I’d just reiterate what we said at the top in underscoring what the President has announced today – of course, what we’ve done, what the U.S. has done in concert with our allies and partners in imposing more sanctions. And in doing so, we were targeting Putin’s allies, including Russian elites and their family members who have supported his brutal invasion.
And I think to your first question, I wouldn’t necessarily directly respond to – I think you said the Russian ambassador to South Korea and their participation of South Korea’s sanctioning Ukraine, but I would say that the world has spoken. The international community has been very clear and they’ve been – we’ve been united in our defense of this war, of the senseless war in Ukraine. I think that was obvious in the United States – I’m sorry, the UN General Assembly vote just yesterday, where over – 141 members voted in support of making sure that we know that Putin’s actions were wrong and that he – his war was unjust and premeditated, and I think that stands alone for itself.
Let’s go over to Nike Ching.
QUESTION: Hey, Jalina. Thank you very much for the call. First, could you comment on the RT closure today due to the condemnation it received in the United States? After Russia invaded Ukraine, do you expect more – does the U.S. expect more closure from Russia state-run media?
And secondly, on China, do you have anything on a New York Times report citing Western intelligence sources that senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics, which the Chinese embassy has denied and pushed back? Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Nike. To your first question, I don’t have anything for you right now. If that does change, we’d be happy to get back to you.
To your second question on the Times piece that you mentioned, I’d say that the world, again, has been watching to see which nations stand up for Ukraine, as well as the basic principles of freedom, their territorial integrity, and sovereignty, and also who stands by or supports Russia –and, again, in their war that was unprovoked, that was premeditated, and, quite frankly, that was unlawful. Nations that side with President Putin will inevitably find themselves on the wrong side of history.
And I’ll just underscore what President Biden has said: Now is the time for leaders of the world to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression and to stand with the people of Ukraine. This has been a blatant attack on Ukraine’s national sovereignty and their territorial integrity, principles that the PRC claims to respect. This isn’t a moment for hiding or waiting to see what happens next. It’s already clear what’s happened right now.
Let’s go to the line of Rick Westhead, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I’m with TSN Sports. Yesterday Ukraine’s top diplomat in Canada sent a letter to the Canadian federal government asking that Canada, moving forward, no longer approve visas and work permits for Russian and Belarusian professional athletes. I’d like to know whether the U.S. State Department is also – is contemplating this, and if similar conversations have happened between the State Department and the Ukrainian embassy in Washington.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. I wouldn’t be able to preview any premeditative action, but what I can say broadly speaking is that we have been unable to process most visas in Moscow for the past several months because of the Russian Government’s force reduction in our consular workforce. Any non-immigrant visas may be processed wherever an application – an applicant is physically located and can schedule an appointment.
Let’s go to Humeyra Pamuk.
QUESTION: Hello, can you hear me?
MR PRICE: Hi. Yes, I can hear you.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. I have two questions. I see that Russia and Ukraine have agreed on the need to set up a humanitarian corridor to help fleeing civilians. I’m just wondering if U.S. is going to be involved in this effort in any way and whether Washington is in touch with Moscow specifically about a humanitarian corridor.
And then on Iran, could you just tell us the very latest on the indirect talks between U.S. and Iran? Is there a deal yet or is it imminent? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your questions, Humeyra. To your first one, I don’t have anything to say specific to any participation in the humanitarian corridor, but I will say that the U.S. has been one of the foremost donors in humanitarian assistance in Ukraine, and we continue to stand by them to this day.
To your second question on Iran, I’ll just say that there has been significant progress and we are close to a possible deal, but a number of difficult issues still remain unsolved. There’s very little remaining time to reach a deal given the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances, and as we’ve said before –and I’ll underscore here again today – that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So we will not have a deal unless we resolved quickly the remaining issues. If Iran shows seriousness, we can and should reach an understanding of mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA within days. Outside of that, anything would put us in the possibility of return to the deal at grave risk.
Let’s please go to Rosiland Jordan.
OPERATOR: Rosiland Jordan, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi. Hi. Thanks, Jalina, for the call. First, I wanted to ask you about today’s announcement out of Havana that additional U.S. diplomats will be rebased there in order to step up the ability to process visas for Cuban citizens. Why was that decision taken now? Does that mean that the U.S. does not think that there’s any potential future health risk to U.S. diplomats? And finally, does this – is this a harbinger of closer ties between the U.S. and Cuba now that the President has been in power for more than a year?
MS PORTER: Thanks, Ros. I’ll start by saying that the embassy in Havana looks forward to initiating a limited resumption of some immigrant visa services as a part of a broader expansion of the embassy to facilitate diplomatic and civil society engagement, and also to expand the provision of consular services. I’d also say at the direction of Biden-Harris administration, the State Department explored options to augment staffing at U.S. Embassy in Havana to facilitate the provision of consular services while also maintaining an appropriate security posture.
It goes without saying that our top priority is the safety and security of all of our people, and I would also say that we – our goal is to work with the embassy in Georgetown in Guyana. It will remain the priority, the primary processing location for Cuban immigrant visa applications. And we will begin – when we begin limited immigrant visa processing at Embassy Havana, we will also work with the National Visa Center to schedule a limited number of immigrant visa appointments for applicants whose information is documentarily complete.
Let’s go to Laura Kelly, please.
OPERATOR: Laura Kelly, your line is open.
QUESTION: Thank you so much for taking my question. I wanted to zoom out a little on sanctions – I hope I’m not getting ahead of myself – but I wanted to ask if there’s a timeline for these sanctions to remain in place, or if they are expected to be in place in perpetuity until certain conditions are met where – I’m sorry, the sanctions on Russia related to the Ukraine crisis. Are there certain conditions which would lift or ease sanctions that Russia – certain actions Russia can take? And are sanctions lifting and easing solely at the discretion of the President? Yes, that’s it.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Laura. I’m not in a position to preview any timeline, and again, the President just made these announcements today. But what I would say is that we used sanctions as a tool and we hope this tool will help them come back to the negotiating table of diplomacy. We hope that they will come back to the table of de-escalation. What we’ve seen is proof that that has not happened at all yet, so I don’t even think it’s appropriate to even think about any timeline at a time like this when they continue their aggression every single day.
Let’s go to José Luis Sanz.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) holding this. Well, El Salvador is the only country in Central America that has not yet made public their position in – on the invasion of Ukraine. And they abstained in the United Nations vote condemning the invasion.
Two questions related with that. One, has been any direct contact with the Salvadoran authorities or the President Bukele to try to persuade him or talk about this position? And second, Senator Menendez has talked about the possibility of taking some kind of action against the countries like Nicaragua or El Salvador that are not condemning the invasion. Which is your position on that?
MS PORTER: José, if we have you, could you please ask your second question again so I can have fidelity on who you said would target Nicaragua?
QUESTION: Yeah. The second question is that Senator Menendez talked yesterday about the possibility of the impact that the decision or the position of Nicaragua and El Salvador abstaining on the United Nations resolution could have, and the possibility of rebuilding CAFTA for those countries. Is there – this administration thinking about any kind of reaction against those countries or rebuilding the relationship with El Salvador or – in any way because of that?
MS PORTER: Thanks. What I’ll say is that we certainly aren’t in a position to interfere with any senators or members of Congress in what they deem appropriate in this situation. Our goal has always been to help the people of El Salvador in any way that we can. We value our strong relationship with the people of El Salvador and what we focus on is to promote an El Salvador that is safe and is prosperous and that is committed to fighting corruption as well.
As far as your first question, I would say again I’d underscore what I said before, in that the international community has spoken up. They – we’ve spoken up in unity. We’ve been clear that what – the senseless war in Ukraine is awful. But again, I wouldn’t go anywhere beyond that.
Let’s go to Olivia Gazis.
QUESTION: Thanks very much, Jalina. Wondering if you can talk about – the LFA said today that French President Emmanuel Macron came away from a 90-minute call with Putin worried that the worst is to come. Wondering if you’ve got a more detailed readout of that call and what specifically he meant. And then separately, relatedly, if you have any update on the U.S.’s efforts to determine whether Russia is, in fact, using prohibited weapons on Ukrainian soil. Thank you.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Olivia. To your first question, I would leave it to the French to provide a readout of President Macron’s call. And to your second question, the United States supports ongoing efforts to detect any potential human rights abuses or violations of international humanitarian law. Beyond that, I don’t have anything further.
Let’s go to Nick Wadhams, please.
QUESTION: Hi Jalina, thanks very much. Can you tell us if the State Department is going to release the names of the 19 oligarchs and the 47 family members and close associates who are the target of visa restrictions that were announced today? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks, Nick. I would refer you to the White House fact sheet that came out. And to kind of summarize, it imposed visa restrictions on 19 oligarchs and 47 of their members, but did not highlight specifically who they were.
Let’s go to Joseph Haboush, please.
OPERATOR: Joseph Haboush, your line is open. Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Hi, Jalina. I wanted to ask just a follow-up on the Iran talks. You mentioned there’s very little time remaining to reach a nuclear deal. Does Special Envoy Malley plan on returning if there’s no deal reached before the end of the weekend? And could you elaborate on the sticking points, and if the State Department is considering removing the IRGC as an FTO?
And just a second one. The UAE’s ambassador to the U.S. today mentioned that ties were undergoing a stress test between Washington and the UAE. And in an article published today in The Atlantic, the Saudi crown prince mentioned that he did not care what the – what President Biden thought of him. Any response to either of these comments? Thank you.
MS PORTER: If you’re still on the line, can you repeat your second question?
QUESTION: Yeah. So this morning, the UAE ambassador to the U.S. mentioned that ties between the U.S. and the UAE are going through a stress test, implying that ties weren’t at their best or at their highest levels. And the – in an interview also published today, the Saudi crown prince said that he did not care what President Biden thought of him. Any response on either of those? Thanks.
MS PORTER: Thanks for repeating that. I don’t have any response for you at this time, to your second question. To your first one, Special Envoy Malley continues to remain in the region. He’s consulting with his interagency team out there. I don’t have anything to preview beyond that. And we certainly don’t have anything to preview as far as FTOs.
Let’s take a final question from Eric Tucker.
QUESTION: Jalina, thank you so much for doing this. As you know, obviously the U.S. is currently holding Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, and Ukraine is holding a North Dakota farmer, Kurt Groszhans. I’m wondering to what extent the war affects U.S. abilities to bring any of those three men home, and what sort of work continues to try to make those arrangements to get them home. Thank you so much.
MS PORTER: Thanks for your question. I’ll just underscore what we’ve said time and again, is – and that our top priority is the safety and security of all U.S. citizens. Of course, that includes Trevor Reed and Paul Whelan, and this is something that the Secretary works on day in and day out.
Thank you all for joining us this afternoon. That concludes today’s briefing. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:38 p.m.)
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