Ukraine crisis: Russia condemns US 'Iron Curtain' sanctions

Pro-Russian activist in Sloviansk, 29 April Armed pro-Russian activists continue to occupy government buildings in east Ukraine

Russia has condemned new US and EU sanctions that have been imposed over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said "Iron Curtain"-style US sanctions might harm its hi-tech sector and that the EU was "under Washington's thumb".

Russia had no intention of invading eastern Ukraine, where separatists have seized government buildings, he added.

Later, the regional governor's headquarters in the city of Luhansk, near the Russian border, was stormed.

The AFP news agency reported that a crowd of more than 3,000 people, led by about 20 youths armed with metal bars, was attempting to take over the building.

Police were firing tear gas in an effort to push them back, Interfax-Ukraine said.

Pro-Russia activists seized the Security Service of Ukraine building in Luhansk three weeks ago.

'Washington's bidding'

Mr Ryabkov told the online newspaper Gazeta.ru that the US sanctions were "a blow to our hi-tech enterprises and industries".

Analysis

Russia's claims of an "unprecedented" Nato military build-up on its borders are part of an ongoing information war.

Nato insists its deployments are simply to reassure worried members. Company-size groups of around 150 US paratroopers are being deployed for exercises in Poland and the three Baltic republics. So that's about 600 men. Around a dozen additional fast jets have been deployed to Poland and to reinforce air patrols in the Baltic air-space.

The three Baltic republics - all Nato members - have no jet fighters of their own. And to cap Nato's "build-up" a small flotilla of mine-hunters - almost as small a vessel as you can get in naval terms - have been sent to the Baltic Sea.

The US has reinforced its naval presence in the Black Sea, but again this is a question of showing presence. By contrast Russia has some 40,000 armoured and mechanised troops on Ukraine's border, which Nato says are ready to advance at short notice.

He added: "This is a revival of a system created in 1949 when Western countries essentially lowered an 'Iron Curtain', cutting off supplies of hi-tech goods to the USSR and other countries."

A Russian foreign ministry statement said the EU was "doing Washington's bidding with new unfriendly gestures towards Russia".

It added: "If that is how someone in Brussels is hoping to stabilise the situation in Ukraine, then it is a clear indication of a complete lack of understanding of the interior political situation in the country... Are you not ashamed?"

On Monday, the US announced new sanctions targeting seven Russian individuals and 17 companies which Washington says are linked to President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle".

On Tuesday, the European Union published a fresh list of 15 individuals facing travel bans and asset freezes.

The European Union's list includes Gen Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff, and Lt Gen Igor Sergun, identified as the head of the Russian military intelligence agency, the GRU.

It also includes Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak and pro-Russian separatist leaders in Crimea and in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

The BBC's Matthew Price in Brussels says this list does not appear to follow the US line in targeting President Putin's associates, but rather those involved in events on the ground in Ukraine.

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The most significant effect of the sanctions so far has been on business confidence”

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Vyacheslav Ponomarev, the self-styled "mayor" of Sloviansk, which is controlled by pro-Russian activists, said the imposition of the sanctions "does not aid dialogue but only aggravates the situation".

The activists continue to detain some 40 people, including seven military observers linked to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe who were seized last week.

The US and EU first imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a number of senior Russian officials and companies after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine last month.

In his interview, Mr Ryabkov insisted that Moscow was "not at all inclined to repeat the so-called Crimea scenario in south-eastern Ukraine. There are no grounds to fear this".

Valery Gerasimov, Russian armed forces chief of staff, file pic Valery Gerasimov, Russian armed forces chief of staff - now on the EU sanctions list

On Monday, the US said that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had also told American counterpart Chuck Hagel in a phone call that "Moscow has no plans to invade Ukraine".

Mr Shoigu announced that Russian troops had returned to their "permanent positions" after conducting military exercises on the border with Ukraine.

Sarah Rainsford saw pro-Russians clash with united Ukraine protesters

However, Nato said on Tuesday it had "no information that indicates a withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border".

Moscow has expressed concern over an "unprecedented" increase in US and Nato military activity near Russia's borders.

Name Position Sanctioned by
Putin's 'inner circle'

Gennady Timchenko

Founder of Gunvor (oil and energy market trading)

US

Arkady Rotenberg and Boris Rotenberg

Co-owners of SMP Bank and SGM Group

US

Yuri Kovalchuk

Largest single shareholder of Bank Rossiya

US

Igor Sechin

Head of Rosneft (petroleum company)

US

Government officials

Sergei Ivanov

Chief of staff for Presidential Executive Office

US

Oleg Belaventsev

Russian presidential envoy to Crimea

US and EU

Vladimir Yakunin

Chairman of Russian Railways

US

Igor Sergun

Director of GRU

US and EU

Valery Gerasimov

Chief of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces

EU

Vladimir Kozhin

Head of administration

US

Viktor Ivanov

Director of Federal Drug Control Service

US

Sergei Naryshkin

Speaker of the lower house of parliament

US and EU

Vladislav Surkov

Presidential aide and election adviser

US and EU

Dmitry Rogozin

Deputy Prime Minister

US and EU

Sergei Glazyev

Adviser on Ukraine policy

US and EU

Sergei Mironov

Member of Russian Parliament

US

Dmitry Kozak

Deputy Prime Minister

US and EU

Ludmila Shvetsova

Deputy Chair State Duma

EU

Sergei Chemezov

Director of Rostec (state high-technologies division)

US

Others

Bank Rossiya

Russian bank

US

Dmitry Kiselyov

State television news anchor

EU

The US has sent 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states. Washington says it has deployed the extra troops to reassure Nato allies.

Mr Shoigu condemned the US and Nato for "provocative" statements about the need to "contain" Russia.

In other developments on Tuesday:

  • The EU announces it will meet Russia and Ukraine on Friday to discuss gas supplies
  • The mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, is stable in hospital in Israel, where he was flown after being shot in the back on Monday
  • Forum begins in London to start process of trying to recover stolen Ukrainian assets
  • German government distances itself from ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder after he reportedly partied with Mr Putin in St Petersburg on Monday
Map of towns in Ukraine reporting major protests by pro-Russian separatists

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