Russia to treat further US sanctions as an open declaration of economic war – PM

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned the US that any sanctions targeting Russian banking operations and currency trade will be treated as a declaration of economic war and retaliated against by any means necessary.

“If they introduce something like a ban on banking operations or the use of any currency, we will treat it as a declaration of economic war. And we’ll have to respond to it accordingly – economically, politically, or in any other way, if required,” Medvedev said during a trip to the Kamchatka region.

"Our American friends should make no mistake about it,” he emphasized.

 

Medvedev noted that Russia has a long history of surviving economic restrictions and never caved in to the pressure in the past. “Our county had been living under constant pressure through sanctions for the last hundred years,” Medvedev said, accusing the US and its allies of employing sanctions to undercut global competition. “Nothing has changed.”

The prime minister said that by targeting Russia’s gas exports to Europe, Washington wants to push its own LNG shipments to the continent. “It’s an absolutely nonmarket anti-competition measure aimed at strangling our capabilities.”

Medvedev pointed out that the US is simultaneously imposing tariffs on China. “The Chinese, obviously, don’t like it. No one does. And our goal is to resist all these measures.”

On Wednesday, the US State Department announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russian exports of dual-purpose electronics and other national security-controlled equipment, which will come into effect on August 22.

The stated reasoning behind latest punitive actions are accusations levelled against Russia over the Sergei and Yulia Skripal poisoning back in March, which the UK and its allies pinned on Moscow without due investigation. Washington subsequently accused Moscow of breaking the 1991 international law against chemical and biological warfare.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied the allegations, while the UK authorities have provided no proof of Russia’s involvement in the case. Furthermore, Moscow eliminated all stockpiles of its chemical weapons under international obligations, unlike the US, which has still to honor its commitment.

While Russia reserved the right to retaliate against new trade restrictions, the US threatened to intensify sanctions within three months, by potentially cutting off nearly all exports and imports and banning the Russian airline Aeroflot from flying to the US.

To avoid further pressure, Washington demands that Moscow confess and provide “reliable assurances” that Russia will not use chemical weapons in the future. The US also seeks to have “on-site inspections” of alleged chemical production facilities, which Russia has already shut down.

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Obama, EU leaders agree to keep anti-Russian sanctions over Ukraine

US President Barack Obama and EU leaders have agreed to keep anti-Russian sanctions in place for a further year over the situation in Ukraine.

President Obama, who is on his final official visit to Europe, met with the leaders of Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK on Friday.

Among the main topics on the agenda were extending sanctions against Russia, cooperation within the framework of NATO, the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria, and possible new anti-Russian sanctions over Moscow’s actions in Syria.

"The leaders agreed on the necessity of working collectively to move the transatlantic agenda forward, particularly on bringing stabilization to the Middle East and North Africa, as well as securing diplomatic resolution to the conflicts in Syria and eastern Ukraine," the White House said in the statement.

READ MORE: Russian sanctions cost Italy €7bn and up to 200,000 jobs – Italian MP

"The leaders also affirmed the importance of continued cooperation through multilateral institutions, including NATO," the White House added.

Sanctions won’t stop Russia from improving its dialogue and ties with other countries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

We [Russia] have never initiated sanctions. These [sanctions] don’t prevent us from building dialogue and continuing the dialogue on matters that are of interest to us, to Russia,” Peskov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and outgoing US President Obama are likely to talk informally on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in the Peruvian capital of Lima, Peskov said on Friday.

“The two administrations have not agreed on any separate meetings, but we can assume that President Putin and President Obama will cross paths on the sidelines of the forum and will talk,” Peskov said.

READ MORE: EU’s dialogue with Russia should be ‘correct and pragmatic’ – Italian FM

Also on Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gave a speech at an event hosted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), where he said that Europe and the United States “are close economic and trade partners” and mentioned potential threats for the alliance.

“Russia, breaking international law. Turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East. The refugee and migration crisis. International terrorism. Hybrid warfare. And cyber-attacks,” said Stoltenberg, listing the perceived dangers.

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European Union Avoids Addressing Sanctions Against Russia

Moscow, Oct 21 (Prensa Latina) In its final document, the European Union (EU) summit has refrained from mentioning possible sanctions against Russia for its position on the Syrian conflict, according to Russian television.
 
The Bloomberg agency stated that several major members of the EU had expressed this possibility, but apparently there was no consensus in the union to make an agreement.

The statement, however, condemns the attack against civilians allegedly by Russian aviation and Syrian troops, although Damascus accuses Western powers, including some from the EU, of financing and supplying armed groups such as the Islamic State.

The document also calls for an end to the fighting and a vote of confidence for the UN to lead a political process in Syria.

The EU statement also called for punishment for those responsible for the violation of international humanitarian law and human rights in Syria.

Following the agreement reached in Geneva, the United States bombed Syrian troops instead of terrorists, while Moscow reported on Wednesday that Belgian F-16 jet fighters killed six civilians in the outskirts of Aleppo.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has said that his country is concerned about the situation in Syria, and supports the document in favor of ending the fighting and initiate a political process, but, as he said, it does not make sense to mention sanctions.

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, stated she saw no content to address the issue of restrictions on Russia and considered it more important to create the conditions for humanitarian aid to be distributed Syria, especially in the city of Aleppo.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin warned recently that sanctions against his country for its position on the events in Ukraine or Syria will not solve any particular problem, and are only aimed at a political and development containment of Russia.

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Russia to respond to any new US sanctions with ‘painful’ measures – deputy FM

Moscow will find response measures that would be “painful” for Washington if the US decides to continue toughening its sanctions against Russia, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov told Russian MPs.

“If the US opts to further toughen sanctions in defiance of common sense and in disregard of its experience that has already been quite painful for them, then we will find measures in our toolbox that will have a painful impact, particularly in terms of America’s positioning in the world,” Ryabkov told the deputies of the Russian State Duma, ahead of a vote on a bill suspending the Russian-American deal on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium.

 
The Russian deputy foreign minister also said that the US continues to issue threats “on a daily basis” concerning the imposition of new sanctions against Russia “under various pretexts.” He added that 281 Russian legal entities and 81 officials, including a number of high-ranking figures, are now on the US sanctions list.

At the same time, the US “continues its efforts aimed at bringing its military infrastructure nearer to Russian borders and forming anti-Russian alliances with its European allies,” he said.

Russia’s response moves are “strictly proportionate and adequate” and show that “Russia pursues a rational line and is not guided by emotions,” Ryabkov stressed.

He went on to suggest that Russia could always shift gears and resort to “asymmetrical” measures in its response. He pointed to the recently suspended agreements between the US and Russia in the nuclear energy field as an example.

The “essence” of the present crisis in relations between the US and Russia lies in the fact that “under the current administration, [US foreign policy] became even more arrogant, forceful and focused on the attempts to impose its will on other countries,” the diplomat said, adding that such policy “is doomed to failure from the start in relations with our country.”

“The White House has only itself to blame for the problems in many parts of the world as well as for the difficulties in relations with Russia,” Ryabkov said.

On Wednesday, the Russian State Duma voted in favor of a bill submitted by the president’s office that suspends a deal between the US and Russia on reprocessing weapons-grade plutonium extracted from decommissioned warheads.

The deal, ratified in 2000, envisaged a specific procedure of disposing plutonium by fabricating nuclear plant fuel from it. However, the US later said that this procedure was too costly and instead opted for mixing plutonium with special dilutants and storing it indefinitely.

Russia regarded this as a breach of the agreement and stressed that the US could now potentially restore its weapons-grade plutonium.

The bill adopted on Wednesday lists measures the US should take for the agreement to be resumed. This includes reducing the US military presence on the territory of the NATO members that joined the bloc since September 1, 2000, as well as the lifting of all anti-Russian sanctions and compensating the loss Russia suffered as a result.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree suspending the reprocessing agreement on October 3, in view of “a threat to strategic stability posed by the hostile actions of the US against Russia.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the time that it was a “forced measure” that should become “a signal to Washington.”

On October 5, Moscow also announced the suspension of cooperation agreements with the US in the nuclear and energy sectors. Russia said that the agreements covering scientific and technical cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes were “in a sleep mode” in the past two years because of US actions, and that Moscow’s move simply “reflects the reality.”

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European Powers Might Sanction Russia over Syria

Moscow, Oct 13 (Prensa Latina) Several European powers might implement new sanctions against Russia due to its stance on the Syrian conflict, according to British media, quoted in this capital on Thursday.

The Financial Times reported that countries like France, the United Kingdom and Germany, among others, might be preparing a package of restrictions against Russia, specifically due to the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the French station TF1 on Wednesday that in fact, the responsibility for the crisis in Syria and in the Middle East lies on the West, which promoted the so-called Arab spring and funded the armed groups.

In no way we will let terrorists hiding behind human shields blackmail us, because terrorism must be fought to the end, Putin stressed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zajarova, pointed out recently that the terrorists of Jabhat An Nusra are establishing their commands in hospitals and schools, and are using civilians as human shields in Aleppo.

For its part, Reuters reported that the so-called Syria list might include at least 12 Russian figures, although it acknowledged that it will have to be approved by all 28 members of the European Union (EU).

The EU is implementing sanctions against at least 200 figures and 70 legal entities from Syria, including an oil embargo, the freezing of accounts from the Central Bank of that country and restrictions to investments, among other measures.
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France wants sanctions on Russia lifted soon – foreign minister

Sanctions against Russia should be lifted as soon as possible, France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday following a meeting with his Russian counterpart, while insisting that implementation of the Minsk agreements still remain key to the process.

“Sanctions is not a goal in and of itself,” Jean-Marc Ayrault said in Paris, adding that his country looks forward to scrapping the restrictive measures against Moscow.

 
The process of lifting the Western sanctions on Russia is still related to Minsk agreements that aim to put an end to the crisis in southeastern Ukraine, Ayrault added, saying that “Russia should play a positive role” in their implementation.

Moscow and Paris have been closely working together “in the Normandy format,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after the meeting. The countries’ foreign ministries have been “closely cooperating” and their aides have been involved too, Russia’s top diplomat said. The Normandy format includes Russia, France, Ukraine, and Germany.

“The most important condition for the progress, as stated in the Minsk deal and in UN Security Council resolution, is establishment of direct dialogue between Kiev and Donbass,” Lavrov stressed.

READ MORE: Time to send ‘strong signal’ to Russia and gradually lift sanctions – Austrian FM

Russia has repeatedly said that it’s doing everything in its power to facilitate the implementation of the Ukrainian peace deal, while Kiev has been hindering the process. The West should work with its “allies” in Kiev, President Putin has said, adding that direct dialogue between the parties to the conflict should be promoted.

Russia’s European partners should not hold Moscow solely responsible for fulfilling the Minsk agreements, Putin said at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) earlier this month, adding that there are “issues that are beyond our abilities.”

A number of the 28 countries in the European Union have expressed strong disapproval of the bloc’s restrictive measures on Russia. Italy has repeatedly called for a debate on the issue, rather than the automatic prolongation of sanctions.

READ MORE: Anti-Russian sanctions should be lifted ASAP – leader of Saxony, Germany

In France, both the Senate and the lower house of Parliament,  the French Assembly, have previously voted in favor of a resolution designed to lift the sanctions imposed by the EU in 2014 because of the crisis in eastern Ukraine and the reunification of Crimea with Russia.

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