Russia condemned a new round of US sanctions as illegal on Thursday after news of the measures sent the rouble tumbling to two-year lows and sparked a wider asset sell-off over fears that Moscow was locked in a spiral of never-ending curbs by the West.
Moscow has been trying with mixed success to improve battered US-Russia ties since Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and Russia’s political elite was quick to chalk up a summit last month between Trump and Vladimir Putin as a victory.
But initial triumphalism swiftly turned sour as anger over what some US lawmakers saw as an over deferential performance by Trump and his failure to confront Putin over Moscow’s alleged meddling in US politics galvanized a new sanctions push.
Having bet heavily on improving ties with Washington via Trump, Moscow now finds that Trump is under mounting pressure from US lawmakers to show he is tough on Russia ahead of mid-term elections.
In the latest broadside, the US State Department said on Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions by the month’s end after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, in Britain, something Moscow denies.
In an early reaction, the Kremlin said the sanctions were illegal and unfriendly and that the US move was at odds with the “constructive atmosphere” of Trump and Putin’s encounter in Helsinki.
The new sanctions come in two tranches. The first, which targets US exports of sensitive national-security related goods, comes with deep exemptions and many of the items it covers have already been banned by previous restrictions.
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