Putin urges US to reconsider as new sanctions set to kick in

Russian president says sanctions on range of technologies ‘pointless and counterproductive’

Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday. “I hope the realisation that this policy has no prospects will sooner or later come to our American partners and we can begin to co-operate on a normal basis,” he said. Photograph:  Pavel Golovkin/AP

Russian president Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday. “I hope the realisation that this policy has no prospects will sooner or later come to our American partners and we can begin to co-operate on a normal basis,” he said. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

 

Vladimir Putin has urged the US to reconsider its sanctions policy, saying moves by Washington to impose yet more penalties on Russia were pointless and counterproductive.

Mr Putin was speaking as the US prepared to unleash sweeping new sanctions against Russia in response to the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury in March. The measures, mandated by the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, will bar Russia from importing a wide range of technologies from the US that have national security implications.

Yet tougher US sanctions will follow if Russia fails within 90 days to renounce the use of chemical and biological weapons and allow an international inspection of its chemical facilities.

Russia has denied involvement in the Skripal poisoning.

US sanctions were “pointless and counterproductive especially in relation to such a country as Russia”, Mr Putin told a press conference after talks with Sauli Niinisto, the president of Finland, in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Wednesday. “I hope the realisation that this policy has no prospects will sooner or later come to our American partners and we can begin to co-operate on a normal basis,” he said.

Denis Manturov, the Russian minister of trade and industry, played down the impact of the fresh sanctions, saying Russia would turn to Southeast Asia for technological components barred by the US.

Russia was considering retaliating against the US by renouncing the use of the US dollar in its international trade, he told reporters in Moscow.

Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state armaments trader, said it planned to switch to national currencies when settling accounts with buyers in China, India and Turkey.

Asset freezes

Western countries, led by the US, have been ratcheting up sanctions against Russia since 2014 in a so far unsuccessful campaign to persuade Kremlin to change its policies in Ukraine and Syria. The measures have targeted the Russian oil and banking sectors as well as individuals deemed to gain from Kremlin polices who have been hit with western asset freezes and visa bans.

Allegations that the Kremlin meddled in the 2016 US election that brought Donald Trump to power have fired anti-Russia sentiment across the political establishment in Washington.

On top of sanctions over the Skripal poisoning, US lawmakers have been calling for restrictions on investment in Russian government debt that have spooked investors.

Russia’s finance ministry cancelled a bond auction on Wednesday, citing increasing volatility in the market.

Russia’s central bank has bought up millions of dollars worth of foreign currency in the past few days in an attempt to halt a slide in the value of the ruble that has lost more than 6 per cent of its value since the start of this month.

Downward slide

Dmitri Peskov, Mr Putin’s spokesman, warned that Russian relations with the US were on a downward slide and asked if Washington had the will to seek areas for co-operation.

Mr Peskov was speaking ahead of a meeting between Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the Russian Security Council and John Bolton, his US counterpart, for talks in Geneva on Thursday that are expected to cover Syria and Ukraine as well as bilateral relations.

Mr Bolton riled the Kremlin with a statement this week that Russia was “stuck” in Syria and was looking for other countries to fund postwar reconstruction there.

Mr Peskov said Russia was playing a major role in rescuing Syria from international terrorists and resolving the country’s political problems. “To say that Russia is somehow stuck is incorrect – all the more so coming from our colleagues in the US. We shouldn’t forget that American servicemen are also on Syrian territory.”