Russia ‘may toughen counter-sanctions’ over Ukraine

Russia ‘may toughen counter-sanctions’ over Ukraine

Russia ‘may toughen counter-sanctions’ over Ukraine

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Russia may toughen its response to sanctions imposed by the European Union over the crisis in Ukraine if the bloc extends its measures against Moscow, a Kremlin aide said on June 18.

Reuters reported that economic adviser Andrei Belousov’s comments, at the annual St Petersburg International Economic Forum, followed a decision on June 17 by EU governments to extend the economic sanctions on Russia until the end of January, 2016. 

“We are looking at a wide range of actions. I don’t want now to name the measures that could be taken. Much will depend on what decision the EU takes,” Belousov told reporters. 

Asked whether Russia could toughen its counter-sanctions, which include a ban on Western food imports and travel bans on European officials, Belousov said: “I rule nothing out.” 

Russian officials have said Moscow will wait for a formal EU decision before taking any steps but that the extension of sanctions would be harmful for the EU as well as Russia. 

The sanctions imposed by the EU and the United States over the conflict in Ukraine have deepened problems for Russia’s economy, also hit by a fall in global oil prices and the rouble’s fall against the U.S. dollar. 

Sanctions were initially imposed after Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula in March last year. Western government also say Russia has sent soldiers and arms to help separatists fighting in east Ukraine but Moscow denies the accusations. 

Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev said earlier on June 18 that Russia was unlikely to introduce new measures in response to the extension of EU sanctions but was likely to extend the food embargo. 

“We will just keep the status quo,” he told Russia’s RIA news agency.   

Ukraine dismisses intel chief

Ukraine’s parliament, meanwhile, fired the powerful head of the SBU state security service on June 18 after he fell foul of President Petro Poroshenko and became embroiled in a conflict with the nation’s chief prosecutor.

“The Verkhovna Rada [parliament] supported my proposal to dimiss Valentyn Nalyvaychenko from his post as head of the SBU,” Poroshenko tweeted after 248 lawmakers in the 450-seat chamber supported the president’s formal request.

Ukraine’s State Security Service enjoys sweeping powers that it inherited from the domestic branch of the Soviet-era KGB.

The 49-year-old Nalyvaychenko was appointed three months before Poroshenko’s May 2014 presidential election and was never seen as a supporter of the Western-backed head of state.

Nalyvaychenko also headed the SBU in 2006-2010 and is believed to have gathered reams of data related to corrupt dealings of both past and present lawmakers and members of government.

His dismissal further highlights the fractured nature of Urkaine’s politics and its continued reliance on clan-style alliances and battles that critics say drain away attention from far more pressing concerns.