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Moscow Downplays U.S. Threat Of New Sanctions

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made light of the threat of U.S. sanctions in an interview with the Rossia 24 station.

Moscow says any new sanctions imposed by the United States would have little effect on its people or economy after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he would impose new punitive measures on wealthy Russians "in the near future."

"If they publish some new lists or announce some decisions, it will not cause any big changes," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Rossia 24 television on February 15.

"I do not see a considerable threat to our economy, let alone the [Russian] people," he added.

Mnuchin told the Senate Finance Committee during a hearing on February 14 that he would soon issue new sanctions against wealthy Russians in retaliation for Moscow's meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"We are actively working on those sanctions," Mnuchin said. "You should expect them in the near future."

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a news briefing on February 15 that she would be "very surprised if there weren’t sanctions in the future" on some Russians, without giving a time frame.

The U.S. Congress overwhelmingly voted for new sanctions on Russia last summer in legislation that was reluctantly signed into law by President Donald Trump, who campaigned on establishing warmer ties with Moscow.

To carry out the law, the Treasury Department last month released a list of 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 "oligarchs" who it said have gained wealth or power through their association with President Vladimir Putin.

The department also sent a classified annex to the list to Congress, but announced no new sanctions at the time.

The Treasury Department was criticized by U.S. legislators and others for not immediately imposing sanctions on at least some of the listed individuals and for putting together a list that the department admitted was drawn mainly from public sources such as Forbes magazine's ranking of Russian billionaires.

Mnuchin on January 30 said that new sanctions were being prepared and that the department would issue them "in the next several months, maybe a month."

Russia also countered U.S. allegations of meddling by saying on February 15 that it has “concrete” evidence of "the destructive interference of some Western countries in our internal affairs in the context of [next month’s] presidential election campaign," and warned of retaliation.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow had warned European countries that "such activity should stop."

"If this does not stop, we will have to take tough countermeasures," she said, without providing specifics, either on the alleged interference or retaliatory measures.

With reporting by Reuters and TASS