Russia warns that EU sanctions will lead to higher energy prices

MOSCOW (AFP) - Moscow warned on Wednesday that a new wave of Western sanctions would drive up European Union energy prices, and said they would hurt the bloc's economy as much as Russia.

"This is a thoughtless, irresponsible step. It will inevitably lead to an increase in prices on the European energy market," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Russia is a key supplier of natural gas to EU states, and has often been accused of using gas prices as a political weapon. "The economies of Russia and the European Union are 'communicating vessels' and Brussels moving to 'third phase' sanctions will affect the economic situation in the EU no less than in Russia," said the ministry.

The EU has yet to release official estimates on the impact of the sanctions. Independent analysts say the Russian economy will be the worse hit, but that both risk sinking into recession.

On Tuesday, the EU announced its first so-called Phase 3 sanctions targeting sectors of Russia's economy, limiting the access of state banks to financial markets, banning future weapons sales, and restricting the sale of sensitive technology, in particular in the energy industry.

Russia also slammed Brussels for following Washington too much and its "inability to play an independent role in world affairs".

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