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Europe

Russia lashes out at new EU sanctions over Ukraine

© Afp

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-27

Russia has criticised the latest round of EU sanctions imposed Friday over the Ukraine crisis, saying the measures show that Europe has turned its back on cooperating with Russia on issues such as international terrorism and crime.

The EU sanctions announced on Friday impose travel bans and asset freezes on 15 people – including its intelligence chief and the head of the agency overseeing international intelligence operations.

Those on the list include the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov; the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Mikhail Fradkov; and Sergei Beseda, who oversees the FSB agency in charge of overseas intelligence operations.

The Russian foreign ministry said the sanctions show the EU is taking “a complete turn away from joint work with Russia on international and regional security, including the fight against the spread of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism (and) organised crime”.

“We are sure the decisions will be greeted enthusiastically by international terrorists,” the ministry added.

The sanctions are aimed at forcing Moscow to use its influence with pro-Russian separatists to end fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Western leaders have accused the Kremlin of supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine, a charge Moscow denies, including supplying the missiles believed to have brought down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with the loss of all 298 on board.

Economic uncertainty

Russia has generally remained stoic about the threat of tighter Western sanctions over the Ukraine crisis. After Washington unveiled its latest round of sanctions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said they would "have a boomerang effect" and that it would be the United States that would suffer.

But some analysts are concerned that the persistent uncertainty the sanctions generate could undermine Russia's economic growth.

The Russian economy expanded by 1.3 percent last year, a far cry from the 5-10 percent growth rates posted during much of the previous decade. Growth was already seen at risk of slowing down, as spare capacity in the economy has been exhausted and the government has been slow to enact reforms needed to achieve further gains.

Russia lowered its growth forecast to 0.5 percent earlier this year after the first round of Western sanctions. Although the initial measures imposed in April were limited, the uncertainty they generated dented investor sentiment and sparked massive capital flight.

But others believe the effect of the sanctions will be limited.

"The current sanctions will not have a macroeconomic effect, it is a problem for specific companies," senior Kremlin adviser Andrei Belousov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

The EU may also decide this week to restrict the ability of top Russian banks to raise funds in Europe and ban the sale of weapons and much-needed technology for the energy sector.

The EU's steps follow moves by the United States, which has barred two major Russian financial institutions – Gazprombank and VEB – and two giant Russian energy firms – OA Novatek and Rosneft – from US capital markets.

The measures were a step up from the initial round of sanctions that targeted officials and business executives, and analysts expect even broader sanctions should the crisis in Ukraine drag on or escalate.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg joined calls on Sunday for Russia to be stripped of the World Cup in 2018 following the MH17 disaster.

The Liberal Democrat leader said sporting events should be part of a new package of EU sanctions against Moscow.

"You can't have this – the beautiful game – marred by the ugly aggression of Russia on the Russian-Ukrainian border," Clegg told the Sunday Times newspaper.

Clegg's call echoes that of several German politicians earlier this month, although the idea was quickly rejected by football officials.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS and AP)
 

Date created : 2014-07-27

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