US sanctions against Moscow ‘threaten whole relationship’: Russian FM

Sergei Lavrov meeting his French counterpart in Moscow on June 20, 2017.
Sergei Lavrov meeting his French counterpart in Moscow on June 20, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday (June 22) attacked new US sanctions against his country, saying they “seriously threaten the whole relationship” between Moscow and Washington.

The measures are “vain attempts to pressure Russia,” Lavrov said in a statement published by the foreign ministry after a phone call with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“These kinds of actions seriously threaten the whole relationship” between America and Russia, which is “already experiencing a difficult period without this,” Lavrov said.

On Tuesday, the United States added 38 individuals and entities to its sanctions list targeting the Russians and pro-Russian rebels it blames for the fighting in Ukraine.

The move apparently triggered a decision by Russia to cancel a meeting with senior US diplomats on Friday. Lavrov’s statement on Thursday confirmed the cancellation.

US Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon had been due to meet Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov in St Petersburg.

He had hoped to address “irritants” in the relationship, such as tension over Moscow’s intimidation of US diplomats and the US seizure of two Russian diplomatic compounds near Washington and New York.

Ryabkov warned late Wednesday of retaliation.

“This measure will not remain without a reaction – there will be measures in response on our behalf,” he said.

“We regret that once again the American authorities have allowed themselves to be guided by the frenzied Russophobes in Congress, who will stop at nothing to cause us trouble, and especially to reduce to zero any chance of an improvement in Russian-American ties,” he alleged.

The US State Department has insisted the sanctions are not being expanded, merely “maintained,” by adding new targets as Moscow finds ways around the previous embargo.

It says the measures will stay in place until Russia honours the Minsk agreement to disengage from eastern Ukraine and returns the annexed Crimea peninsula to Kiev.