MOSCOW, March 13 (RIA Novosti) – Russia does not rule out reciprocal action if sanctions are imposed by the US and European countries, a senior Russian economic official said Thursday.
“We hope that there will only be targeted political sanctions, and not a broad package affecting economic trade,” Deputy Economic Development Minister Alexei Likhachev said.
“Our sanctions will be, of course, symmetrical,” he added.
The threat of economic sanctions has sent Russian markets and the ruble reeling in recent weeks following Western outcries over the seizure of military bases in Ukraine’s autonomous republic of Crimea by troops lacking official insignia but widely believed to be under Russian command.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the troops are Russian, calling them local militia. A referendum on secession and annexation by Russia is scheduled for Sunday in the majority Russian ethnic region.
The vote is widely expected to return a positive result, with annexation following as early as by the end of the month, pending approval by Russia’s parliament and Putin.
The White House announced visa bans on unnamed officials last week and said that targeted economic sanctions have been authorized against individuals responsible for violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
A US bill expected to introduce broader and tougher sanctions against Russian officials passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday and will now advance to a full vote in Congress.
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.