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Kremlin Lashes Out At U.S. Over 'Destructive' Sanctions


Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left) speaks with businessman and caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been linked to a "troll factory" that paid Russians to post anonymous comments to news sites, social-media networks, and blogs in an effort to bolster Kremlin policies.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman has criticized the United States for targeting additional individuals and organizations with sanctions over Moscow’s aggression in Ukraine and suggested the Kremlin would respond in kind.

Speaking on December 21, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed "regret" over what he called the "destructive obstinacy on the part of our American colleagues."

He said that the U.S. policy of imposing sanctions "does serious damage to our bilateral relations" and that Russia "will take adequate measures" in response.

The U.S. Treasury Department issued an updated list on December 20 that includes seven Russians and more than three dozen companies in Russia and Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula that Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

"These targeted sanctions aim to maintain pressure on Russia by sustaining the costs of its occupation of Crimea and disrupting the activities of those who support the violence and instability in Ukraine," John Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

The list includes Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg businessman who has been linked to a "troll factory" that paid Russians to post anonymous comments to news sites, social-media networks, and blogs in an effort to bolster Kremlin policies.

The U.S. Treasury announcement said Prigozhin had provided financial, material, and technological support for senior Russian defense officials and has had extensive business with the Defense Ministry. That includes a company linked to him that has a contract to build a military base near the Russian border with Ukraine, the department said.

Prigozhin has been dubbed "Putin’s chef" thanks to state catering contracts his firms have secured with the Kremlin and elsewhere.

Russians targeted by the U.S. sanctions over Ukraine are barred from traveling to the United States and any assets they hold there are frozen.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov called the fresh sanctions a "hostile move" and warned on December 20 that Russia would retaliate, at least in part by expanding its own lists of Americans subject to similar sanctions.

"We will be expanding our lists. We will see how we can respond asymmetrically," the state-run TASS news agency quoted Ryabkov as saying.

Russia does not publicly release the names of the U.S. citizens targeted by its sanctions.

With reporting by TASS
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