The Russian Foreign Ministry responded with a scathing statement to the EU’s new round of sanctions against Russia, saying Europe apparently has no insight into the political situation in Ukraine.
“Instead of forcing the Kiev clique to sit down with south-eastern Ukraine to negotiate the country’s future political system, our partners are toeing Washington’s line to take more unfriendly gestures towards Russia,” the statement declared.
“If somebody in Brussels hopes to stabilize the situation in Ukraine by this, it is evidence of a total lack of understanding of the internal political situation in that country and invites local neo-Nazis to continue their lawlessness and thuggery towards the peaceful civilians of the south-east,” the statement said. “Are you not ashamed?”
The reproof comes in response to EU’s unveiling a list of 15 names targeted by the union’s new round of sanctions against Russia over its stance on the Ukrainian political crisis. The move comes a day after a similar move by Washington, although the American sanctions targeted fewer people and are also aimed at some Russian companies.
The EU list includes Russian officials like Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s new Minister for Crimean Affairs Oleg Savelyev and Crimea’s new Senator Olga Kovitidi.
It also target Ukrainian leaders of the protest movement in the east of the country, including Igor Strelkov, a Ukrainian militia commander in Slavyansk, who Kiev claims is actually a Russian military intelligence officer named Igor Girkin. Kiev failed to provide any proof of the claims, and its previous US-endorsed evidence of alleged Russian military presence in Ukraine proved to be false.
The Tuesday move brings to 48 the number of individuals targeted by European asset freezes and travel bans.
Unlike Washington, Brussels didn’t level sanctions against businessmen like Igor Sechin, the head of Russian energy giant Rosneft, who is reputed to have strong ties with President Vladimir Putin, but does not hold any office in the Russian government.
The individuals targeted by the sanctions were calm and sarcastic about them, as was the case with the previous rounds of sanctions.
“It’s such small thing that has no effect on my life or work that I could only say ‘stupid, but flattering’” Savelyev told ITAR-TASS.
Russian Senate Speaker Valentina Matvienko, who was targeted by a previous round of personal sanctions, said Russia “may thank the West, because with their actions they are consolidating further the Russian society, while Russia has enough resilience to respond to any possible damage from such sanctions.”
In a separate move on Tuesday Japan issued visa bans on 23 people, expanding its own sanctions against Russia. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the move “clumsy” and “obviously taken under foreign pressure,” adding that it would not go without a response.
The US and its allies are imposing more sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and companies in a bid to ramp up the cost of Moscow’s policy towards Ukraine. The West accuses Russia of deliberately escalating tensions in eastern Ukraine in a bid to undermine the authorities in Kiev, which are considered mostly illegitimate by Russia, but are supported by Western countries.
Russia sees the attitude as duplicitous, considering the support the US and the EU gave to anti-government protest in Kiev, which escalated into an armed coup that brought the current leadership of Ukraine into power. It also says Kiev is failing to do the necessary steps towards defusing the situation, namely disarming the nationalist militias which were the cornerstone of the coup, and calling off the military crackdown on the protest in the east.