Russia's lower parliament house has scheduled the first reading of a bill on retaliatory sanctions against the United States for May 15, meaning the first of three State Duma votes on the legislation could be held that day.
Senior lawmakers met on April 16 to discuss plans to hit back against Washington, which 10 days earlier imposed asset freezes and financial restrictions on tycoons, security officials, politicians, and companies seen to have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The U.S. treasury secretary said the sanctions were a response to Russia's “malign activity around the globe,” alluding among other things to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain and Moscow's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The Russian bill on countering "unfriendly actions by the United States and other foreign states," introduced on April 13, would authorize Putin's government to ban or restrict the import of a raft of U.S. goods and services.
Among goods that could be banned or subjected to restrictions are medicines, alcohol, tobacco, agricultural and industrial products, technological equipment and computer software -- though individual Russians would be allowed to bring many of the items into the country for personal use. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Auditing, legal, and consulting services by U.S. companies could also be subject to bans or restrictions, and curbs could be imposed on U.S. citizens working in Russia. In addition, individual Americans could be added to existing lists of those barred from entering Russia.
Duma deputy speaker Aleksandr Zhukov said on April 16 that a group of lawmakers and experts will discuss the bill on May 3.
Russia has sharply criticized the new U.S. sanctions. Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, contended on April 16 that they are "nothing more than an international asset grab" and an effort to give U.S. companies a competitive edge over Russian firms -- allegations that U.S. officials say are untrue.