Moscow yesterday hit back at Washington’s threats of direct sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying moves against the Russian leader would be ineffective and hurt efforts to lower tensions over Ukraine.
Officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were yesterday set for talks in Paris in the latest bid to ease a crisis sparked by fears that Moscow is preparing an invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.
The West has warned Russia of severe consequences if it does invade, and on Tuesday, Washington said there could be sanctions personally targeting Putin.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the threats are worthless, as senior Russian officials are barred from holding assets abroad.
However, such a move would do serious damage to diplomatic efforts to ease ratcheting tensions over Ukraine, he said.
“Politically, it’s not painful, it’s destructive,” Peskov told reporters.
The Kremlin has previously said any US sanctions personally targeting Putin would be akin to crossing a red line, warning the move could result in a rupture of bilateral ties.
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday said that any Russian military attack on Ukraine would trigger “enormous consequences” and could even “change the world.”
A senior US official described potential economic sanctions “with massive consequences” that would go far beyond measures implemented in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region.
The official said new measures would include restrictions on exports of high-tech US equipment in the artificial intelligence, quantum computing and aerospace sectors.
Cutting Russia off from these technologies would hit Putin’s “strategic ambitions to industrialize his economy quite hard,” the official said.
The speaker of Russia’s lower house said that Washington’s threat against Putin showed the US “wants a loyal Russian president that it can control.”
“The United States is not happy that under President Vladimir Putin, the Russian Federation has become strong and independent,” Chairman of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin wrote on social media.
Russia is expecting this week to receive written US responses to sweeping security demands Moscow made last year that seek to dramatically limit NATO’s reach and capabilities in eastern Europe and the former Soviet bloc.
Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said in an address to lawmakers that Moscow would take “all necessary measures” if it did not receive constructive responses and if the West continued its “aggressive policy.”
Moscow has also announced a spate of military drills, including in Belarus, and on Tuesday said it would hold fresh exercises involving 6,000 troops near Ukraine and within the Crimea region.
As part of separate naval exercises announced this month, Russian warships yesterday entered the Barents Sea, the Russian Northern Fleet said in a statement.
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