Biden warns Russian oligarchs their ‘ill-begotten gains’ will be seized

Vladimir Putin ‘badly miscalculated’ by invading Ukraine, says US president

US president Joe Biden has warned Russian oligarchs that America and its European allies were going to go after their "ill-begotten" luxury aircraft, yachts and homes.

In his state of the union address to the US Congress he also maintained that Russian president Vladimir Putin had "badly miscalculated" in deciding to invade Ukraine. He said when history was written "Putin's war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger".

Mr Biden said: “Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways.

“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.”

Mr Biden said the United States stood with the Ukrainian people.

“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression they cause more chaos.

“They keep moving.

“And the costs and the threats to America and the world keep rising.

"That's why the Nato alliance was created to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War Two."

Mr Biden said the attack by Russia on Ukraine was “premeditated and unprovoked”.

Mr Biden said: “He [Putin] rejected repeated efforts at diplomacy.

“He thought the West and Nato wouldn’t respond. And he thought he could divide us at home. Putin was wrong. We were ready. Here is what we did.

"We prepared extensively and carefully. We spent months building a coalition of other freedom-loving nations from Europe and the Americas to Asia and Africa to confront Putin.

“I spent countless hours unifying our European allies. We shared with the world in advance what we knew Putin was planning and precisely how he would try to falsely justify his aggression.

“We countered Russia’s lies with truth.

“We are inflicting pain on Russia and supporting the people of Ukraine. Putin is now isolated from the world more than ever.”

Mr Biden announced that the United States would join with European and other allies in closing off American air space to all Russian flights.

“Tonight I say to the Russian oligarchs and corrupt leaders who have bilked billions of dollars off this violent regime: no more.

“The US department of justice is assembling a dedicated task force to go after the crimes of Russian oligarchs.

“We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts your luxury apartments your private jets. We are coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

Mr Biden again stressed that US forces would not engage in combat with Russians in Ukraine.

However he again warned that the United States and our Allies would “defend every inch of territory of Nato countries with the full force of our collective power”.

“And we remain clear-eyed. The Ukrainians are fighting back with pure courage. But the next few days weeks, months, will be hard on them.

“Putin has unleashed violence and chaos. But while he may make gains on the battlefield – he will pay a continuing high price over the long run.

“And a proud Ukrainian people, who have known 30 years of independence, have repeatedly shown that they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.”

Mr Biden also urged Congress to introduce into law the key elements of his domestic agenda, which are currently stalled due to insufficient support on Capitol Hill, such as tackling healthcare and childcare costs as well as tax reform to make wealthy Americans and corporations “pay their fair share”.

He also told Americans, fearful about rising inflation following the Covid-19 pandemic that “we are going to be okay”.

“Tonight, I can announce that the United States has worked with 30 other countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from reserves around the world (to try deal with rising fuel prices).”

He accepted the pandemic had been punishing but argued that “thanks to the progress we have made this past year, Covid-19 need no longer control our lives”.

“Tonight I can say we are moving forward safely, back to more normal routines.” He said on foot of new official health guidance most Americans in most of the country would not have to wear masks.

He said he knew some people were talking about “living with Covid-19”.

“Tonight – I say that we will never just accept living with Covid-19.”