MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) – The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday imposed sanctions against nine senior US officials in retaliation to US visa bans and asset freezes.
The White House authorized sanctions on Monday against Russian officials “who are most directly involved in destabilizing Ukraine.” The US sanctions targeted seven top Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin, including presidential aide Vladislav Surkov, the speaker of the upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The list was extended on Thursday and now includes presidential aide Andrei Fursenko, Presidential Executive Office Chief of Staff Sergei Ivanov, head of Russia’s military intelligence service GRU Igor Sergun, head of Russia’s railway monopoly RZD Vladimir Yakunin and a number of senior lawmakers.
“We have repeatedly warned that the use of sanctions is double-edged and has boomerang effect,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The list of US officials barred from Russia comprises deputy national security advisers Ben Rhodes and Caroline Atkinson, senators John McCain, Harry Reid, Robert Menendez, Daniel Coats and Mary Landrieu, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner and Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama.
Washington refuses to admit the obvious fact that the people of Crimea have voted for reunification with Russia, which respects and accepts their choice, the ministry said adding that the referendum was democratic and complied with the international law and UN Charter.
Crimea, previously an autonomous republic within Ukraine, refused to recognize the legitimacy of the government in Kiev that came to power amid often violent protests last month and sought reunification with Russia after 60 years as part of Ukraine.
Russia has in the past responded to such targeted sanctions in a proportional manner. A 2012 US blacklist of Russian officials blamed for the death of whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009 spurred the country last year to retaliate with a similar list of US officials banned from entering the country.