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EU and Russia condemn proposed new US sanctions on Moscow

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© Pavel Golovkin / POOL / AFP | Igor Sechin, the CEO of oil giant Rosneft, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 30, 2017.

Russia and the European Union condemned the USA on Wednesday after the US House of representatives on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to impose new sanctions against Russia.

The US sanctions aim to punish Russia by damaging key sectors of its economy, such as energy, natural resources and shipping.
“Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has invaded its neighbour Ukraine, seizing its territory and destabilising its government," said US House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce, lauding the sanctions.
Russia ‘sad’ at news
Moscow promptly condemned the proposed sanctions and raised the prospect of retaliation.
"This is rather sad news from the point of view of Russia-US ties," said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman. "We are talking about an extremely unfriendly act."
He said President Vladimir Putin would decide if and how Moscow would retaliate once the fresh sanctions became law, while deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov asserted that Washington had been told "dozens of times" that any new sanctions would "not go unanswered".
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Oil and gas fears: EU
The EU also warned it was ready “to act to protect European interests” if the sanctions legislation damaged the blocs dealings with the Russian energy sector. Brussels is concerned that the new sanctions will adversely affect European firms as well as oil and gas projects on which the EU states rely.
France’s foreign ministry declared the sanctions appear to be illegal under international law while a German foreign ministry spokesman accused Washington of carrying out industrial policy under the guise of sanctions – something Berlin “could not accept”.
"The US bill could have unintended unilateral effects that impact the EU's energy security interests," said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
"If our concerns are not taken into account sufficiently, we stand ready to act appropriately within a matter of days. 'America First' cannot mean that Europe's interests come last," Juncker threatened, mentioning President Donald Trump's guiding slogan.
Officials say the EU could use regulations allowing it to stop the United States applying extraterritorial measures, demand that the US exclude EU energy companies from the sanctions, or even introduce bans on the EU doing business with particular US companies. A further option is for the EU to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation.
End of EU-USA vs Russia?
Brussels is also furious at the unilateral action by Washington as usually the EU and USA cooperate closely on measures against Russia.
The EU and US first imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of Crimea, as Moscow was accused of backing a separatist insurgency to halt Ukraine's pivot to the West.
The two sides later imposed broader economic sanctions after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July 2014, which international investigators say was downed by a Russian missile fired from rebel-held territory.
The US bill will now head to the Senate before Trump faces the tricky choice of whether to use his veto. The bill effectively constitutes a rebuke of Trump – who has frequently lauded Russian President Vladimir Putin while calling for closer relations with Moscow. It requires the President to get lawmakers' permission before relaxing any sanctions on Russia.


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