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Russia warns of ‘painful’ response if Donald Trump backs US sanctions

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-07-2017 Stepan Kravchenko

Moscow: Russia threatened to retaliate against new sanctions passed by the US House of Representatives, saying they made it all but impossible to achieve the Trump administration’s goal of improved relations.

The measures push US-Russia ties into uncharted territory and “don’t leave room for the normalization of relations” in the foreseeable future, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Wednesday, according to the Interfax news service.

Hope “is dying” for improved relations because the scale of “the anti-Russian consensus in Congress makes dialogue impossible and for a long time”, Konstantin Kosachyov, chairman of the international affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said on Facebook. Russia should prepare a response to the sanctions that’s “painful for the Americans”, he said.

The bill passed by a vote of 419-3 on Tuesday strengthens sanctions against Russia less than three weeks after President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin held their first official meeting at the Group of 20 summit.

The measure, which now goes to the Senate, requires Trump to seek congressional approval before easing sanctions imposed under the Obama administration for Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections and its support for separatists in Ukraine. The White House has sent mixed signals about whether Trump will sign the bill.

‘Anti-Russian hysteria’

Trump will sign the law because “he’s a prisoner of Congress and anti-Russian hysteria”, Alexei Pushkov, a senator in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said on Twitter. The sanctions are “a new stage of confrontation”, he said.

McDonald’s restaurants in Russia aren’t “a sacred cow” and should face “sanitary sanctions”, Pushkov said in a separate tweet. The fast food chain’s press office in Russia declined to comment immediately. The largest McDonald’s in Russia was shuttered for three months in 2014 amid about 250 safety probes of the company’s restaurants by officials after the US imposed sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Russia has prepared “economic and political measures that will be adopted if the Senate and Trump support the bill”, said Vladimir Dzhabarov, deputy chairman of the international affairs committee in the upper house, the RIA Novosti news service reported. Relations with the US “are at such a low level that we have nothing to lose” by retaliating, he said.

Putin said after the meeting in Hamburg that he believed Trump accepted his denial that Russia interfered in the election. Congressional committees and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which Trump has dismissed as a “witch hunt”.

The House vote adds to deepening Russian gloom over prospects for a breakthrough in relations with Trump, six months after he took office pledging to improve ties with Putin. Russia threatened last week to expel US diplomats and seize embassy property in Moscow, after Ryabkov failed to gain agreement at talks in Washington for the return of Russian diplomatic compounds taken by the Obama administration in December in response to the election hacking. Bloomberg

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