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Moscow, China Lash Out Over Latest U.S. Sanctions


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (file photo)

Russia and China have criticized new sanctions the United States has imposed over what Washington describes as Moscow's "malign activities."

Officials from the two countries lashed out in multiple comments on September 21, a day after U.S. authorities blacklisted nearly three dozen people and companies they say have ties to Russia's military and intelligence agencies.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the measures had "no legitimacy in terms of international law," and bitterly joked that Washington "has resorted to this practice so frequently that you would run your legs off if you tried to respond to each of these unfriendly manifestations."

But he suggested that Moscow would respond in some way at some point, saying "nobody should doubt that we have adhered and will continue to adhere to the principle of reciprocity."

Russia will take "measures that best correspond to [its] interests," Peskov added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted that U.S. sanctions undermined trust in the dollar, and that Moscow was taking steps to lower its reliance on the U.S. economy and currency.

"We are already drawing conclusions, doing all necessary not to depend on those countries that are acting that way with their international partners," Lavrov said during a visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina. He did not give specifics.

Lavrov also said that targeting Russian plane manufacturer Sukhoi was an "act of unfair competition" by Washington.

Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the blacklisting of nearly three dozen people and companies with ties to Russia's military and intelligence agencies had increased tensions between Moscow and Washington and "thoughtlessly" stirred up "global instability."

"Each new round of sanctions proves our foe's complete lack of success in pressuring Russia with previous such attempts," Ryabkov said.

Ryabkov described the U.S. sanctions as "futile" and said Washington "won’t succeed in dictating terms" to Russia.

"Playing with fire is stupid and can become dangerous," Ryabkov said a day after the U.S. State Department announced the latest sanctions.

Beijing expressed "outrage" over the inclusion on the blacklist of a Chinese military agency and its director for buying Russian fighter jets and surface-to-air antiaircraft equipment.

U.S. officials said the company, Equipment Development Department, and chief officer, Li Shangfu, had engaged in "significant transactions" with Russia's main arms exporter, Rosoboroneksport.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing has lodged complaints with Washington over the "unreasonable action" and has urged the United States to revoke the sanctions or face unspecified "consequences."

The sanctions include bans on entering the United States or conducting transactions within the U.S. financial system. They also block all property and interests in property within U.S. jurisdiction.

Among Russians targeted by the new sanctions are the 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller earlier this year for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Many of those named have also been sanctioned or blacklisted previously under different designations.

In all, 33 Russians and Russian companies were added to the blacklist, which also included Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian tycoon known colloquially as "Putin's chef" for the catering contracts his company has with the Kremlin.

Prigozhin's catering companies and a private military company known as ChVK Vagner, whose fighters have turned up in conflicts in Syria, Ukraine, and Africa, were also blacklisted.

Prigozhin and his companies were indicted by Mueller in February for alleged election meddling. He has repeatedly denied the U.S. accusations, responding to the February indictment by saying, "If they want to see the devil, let them."

The new sanctions were imposed under the 2017 law known as CAATSA, which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress over President Donald Trump's objections.

The law was passed specifically to target Russia, along with several other countries, setting up a wider framework for punitive financial measures, while also making it harder for the White House to lift existing measures.

"The ultimate target of these sanctions is Russia," a State Department official told reporters. "They are...aimed at imposing costs upon Russia in response to its malign activities."

Another even harsher bill that is currently making its way through the U.S. Congress aims to punish Russia by targeting its ability to issue sovereign debt and going after major energy companies like Gazprom and Rosneft.

That legislation, known by its acronym DETER, has bipartisan support. But it is unclear whether it will come up for a vote before the November midterm elections in the United States.

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