Kremlin concerned US may expand sanctions on Russia

The Kremlin has expressed concern that the US may expand sanctions against Russia.
The Kremlin has expressed concern that the US may expand sanctions against Russia.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (BLOOMBERG) - The Kremlin is "concerned" about the possibility the United States might further expand sanctions on Russia, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

"We don't want to be in a situation where our bilateral relations, which are already in a rather pitiful state, could face even bigger and possibly unbearable risks and dangers," Peskov told a conference call Monday (Dec 25). "We have concerns about sanctions, but we don't know what they will be, since it's all still discussions that aren't based on any official information."

Since the limits were first imposed in 2014, the Kremlin has sought to play down their impact, rarely admitting worry about new ones. But a new US law that took effect in August calls for the Treasury to compile a list of business tycoons and companies seen as close to the Kremlin as potential targets for more sanctions. The law also calls for a report on the possible impact of imposing restrictions on the purchase of Russian government debt by US investors. The "oligarch list" has raised fears among wealthy Russians, while debt limits could complicate the government's borrowing plans.

Last week, as the US added the names of several prominent Russians to its sanctions list, President Vladimir Putin approved a plan to issue special bonds to allow wealthy local investors worried about sanctions to bring money back into the country.

"President Putin consistently says that we view these sanctions as illegal and that Russia in principle doesn't plan to discuss lifting them," Peskov said, adding that Russia would retaliate for any new measures the US imposes.

His comments came after Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed the deep freeze in relations with the US on "the Russophobic hysteria that has afflicted the Washington political establishment".

In an interview with the official RIA Novosti news agency, he said that while Putin and President Donald Trump have spoken several times in recent weeks by phone, there have been no discussions of when the next face-to-face meeting might take place.

"I don't think the term 'iron curtain' is applicable to Russian-American relations at present," he said. "More likely, we're talking about another episode of McCarthyism," he added, referring to the 1950s anti-Communist campaigning by then-Senator Joseph McCarthy.