Moscow will take “appropriate measures” in response to possible new sanctions from the European Union, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson said.
“On many levels, the Russian leadership has made it clear that we’ll take adequate measures and our response will be absolutely comparable with the actions by the EU,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman said at briefing in Moscow.
Lukashevich also said that the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine in July has been used as a pretext by the West to push through economic sanctions against Russia.
However, the true reasons behind the tragedy may not be revealed at all due to external pressure on the international commission investigating the MH17 crash, he said.
“It seems that the international commission, under pressure by certain Western powers, is deliberately delaying the investigation and not executing its duties, which is obvious to any aviation expert. As a result, the reasons for the tragedy may not be established and not announced at all,” the spokesman said.
The EU has said that it will implement sanctions against Russia on Friday, which will reportedly include economic measures against Russia’s energy sector.
EU leaders first said they would unleash the latest round of sanctions on September 9, but instead waited to gauge the effectiveness of the ceasefire agreed September 5 by the Ukrainian government and rebel forces.
Several heads of state, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said the European Commission will have the ability to suspend the new economic restrictions if the ceasefire in Ukraine holds.
In response to the EU’s previous set of sanctions that targeted banks, energy, and weaponry, Moscow introduced a one-year food embargo against the US, EU, Norway, Australia, and Canada that will block an estimated $9 billion worth of agricultural exports to Russia.
On Thursday, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy confirmed that new EU sanctions against Russia will come into force September 12.
However, Rompuy added that the European Commission will be tasked with working out proposals on limiting or even canceling the sanctions against Russia, due to the improvement in the situation in Eastern Ukraine.
President Putin’s aide Andrey Belousov said that the second wave of Russian countermeasures in retaliation to Western sanctions may be to restrict the import of cars especially, used ones, as well as some consumer goods.
The state will surely support Russian companies which will be hit by the Western sanctions, Belousov said, adding that the government is currently developing means to promote such assistance.
Hopes for Ukraine crisis resolution
Moscow is pinning high hopes on the Russia-Ukraine-EU Contact Group’s role in settling the Ukraine crisis, Lukashevich said.
“We hope that in this respect the Contact Group will be of good help and also an instrument to promote this process,” he said.
According to the Foreign Ministry spokesman, “everything is fragile” in the southeast of Ukraine at the moment, as there is growing evidence of Kiev consolidating military groupings in different parts of the country.
“We expect that [President Petro] Poroshenko and his team, as well as the self-defense forces, will be committed to the Minsk agreements,” Lukashevich said.
The future status of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk is the subject of negotiations between Kiev and the Donbass leadership, Lukashevich said.
He noted that in the Minsk protocol of September 5 these parts of Ukraine are described as party to the conflict, which is “an important statement itself.”
“As for their status definitions… [the fact that] it’s the subject of talks between Kiev and Donbass is already recorded, which is reflected in the protocol,” the spokesman said.
“We hope that only Ukrainians themselves will decide the status of the territories,” he added.
However, the joint military exercises by Kiev and NATO may “jeopardize the shoring up of the Ukrainian peace process,” the spokesman warned.
“The announced plans to conduct NATO joint maneuvers with Kiev in Ukraine by the end of the year come as a surprise,” he said.
The ceasefire between Kiev and the self-defense forces was agreed during talks in Minsk, Belarus on September 5.
Ukraine has been engulfed in violent internal conflict since April, when Kiev’s military began its crackdown on the southeastern regions of the country after they refused to recognize the country’s new coup-imposed authorities.
The United Nations said on Monday that the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict has exceeded 3,000, with this number including the 298 passengers and crew on board the MH17 airliner.
The number of internally displaced Ukrainians has reached 260,000, with another 814,000 finding refuge in Russia, the UN said.
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