Moscow warns EU sanctions will hamper cooperation, raps US over Ukraine role
Russia reacted angrily today to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation on security issues and undermine the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
Russia's Foreign Ministry also accused the United States, which has already imposed its own sanctions against Moscow, of contributing to the conflict in Ukraine through its support for the pro-Western government in Kiev.
The 28-nation EU reached an outline agreement yesterday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over its behavior in Ukraine but scaled back their scope to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector.
The EU also imposed travel bans and asset freezes on the chiefs of Russia's FSB security service and foreign intelligence service and a number of other top Russian officials, saying they had helped shape Russian government policy that threatened Ukraine's sovereignty and national integrity.
"The additional sanction list is direct evidence that the EU countries have set a course for fully scaling down cooperation with Russia over the issues of international and regional security," Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"(This) includes the fight against the proliferation of weapon of mass destruction, terrorism, organized crime and other new challenges and dangers."
"We are sure such decisions will be accepted with enthusiasm by global terrorists," the ministry added.
The EU had already imposed asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of senior Russian officials over Russia's annexation in March of Ukraine's Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and its support for separatists battling Kiev's forces in eastern Ukraine.
The decision to move toward targeting sectors of Russia's economy came after last week's downing of a Malaysian MH17 airliner, killing 298 people, in an area of eastern Ukraine held by the Russian-backed separatists.
The United States and other Western countries accuse the separatists of downing the plane with a surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. The separatists deny shooting down the plane and Russia says it has provided no such weapons.
In a second statement on Saturday, Russia's Foreign Ministry said Washington shared responsibility for the crisis.
"The United States continues to push Kiev into the forceful repression of (Ukraine's) Russian-speaking population's discontent. There is one conclusion - the Obama administration has some responsibility both for the internal conflict in Ukraine and its severe consequences," it said.
It was responding to the White House's accusation that Russian President Vladimir Putin was "culpable" in the downing of the Malaysian plane.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Europe's largest economy which also has strong trade ties with Russia, spoke out strongly in favor of the new EU sanctions against Moscow in an interview published on Saturday.
"After the death of 300 innocent people in the MH17 crash and the disrespectful roaming around the crash site of marauding soldiers, the behavior of Russia leaves us no other choice." he told Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
"We remain true to our course: cleverly calibrated and mutually agreed measures to raise the pressure and toward a willingness to have serious talks with Russia," he said in the interview, conducted on Friday.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he would hold talks in the Netherlands next Wednesday with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte on how to secure full access for international investigators to the site of the plane crash.
"This will require the cooperation of those in control of the crash site and the Ukrainian armed forces," he said.
The separatists remain in control of the area where the plane came down. A total of 193 Dutch nationals and 43 Malaysians were among the victims aboard MH-17.