Newspaper article International New York Times

Russians Assail E.U.'S Extension of Sanctions ; Kremlin Calls Measures on Crimea Self-Defeating While Vowing to Retaliate

Newspaper article International New York Times

Russians Assail E.U.'S Extension of Sanctions ; Kremlin Calls Measures on Crimea Self-Defeating While Vowing to Retaliate

Article excerpt

Kremlin officials, who had lobbied hard against an extension, called it self-defeating and said their countersanctions would be extended in response.

Kremlin officials reacted furiously Monday to the European Union's extension of sanctions on Russia through January, calling the measure self-defeating and accusing the West of crass anti- Russian bias by timing the decision to the nation's commemoration of soldiers killed in World War II.

The Russian government said it would retaliate with an extension of countersanctions in response to the decision by European Union foreign ministers, at a meeting in Luxembourg, that had been widely expected after European ambassadors reached a tentative agreement last week in Brussels. Russia had lobbied against the renewal of sanctions, which were first imposed in July 2014 in response to the Kremlin's invasion and annexation of Crimea.

Russia has tried not to flinch in the face of the sanctions, which have severely restricted the access of major Russian corporations to Western capital markets, among other punitive measures, but the country's economy has suffered and continues to contract. Lower prices for oil, an important Russian export, delivered a concurrent blow, deepening the recession.

In perhaps the most emotional in a barrage of responses by the Russian government on Monday, Sergei Ivanov, the chief of staff to President Vladimir V. Putin, accused the European Union of deliberately announcing the extension on June 22, to coincide with the Day of Memory and Sorrow, when Russia honors soldiers lost in World War II.

Mr. Ivanov, speaking to the Interfax news agency, also accused Belgium of announcing a plan to seize Russian assets last week in an attempt to mar the annual St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"Unfortunately, it doesn't surprise me anymore," he said. "Do you believe in coincidences? Is it a coincidence that the St. Petersburg forum took place on the same days when the property seizure was declared? It's not a coincidence, either."

In response to the sanctions last year, Russia imposed a ban on most agricultural imports from Europe, dealing a severe blow to many farmers across the Continent and stripping Russian grocery store shelves of some favorite imports, including cheeses. …

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