Russia warned the United States on Friday that any sanctions imposed on Moscow over its response to the crisis in Ukraine would “boomerang” back on the United States, as U.S. officials continued to explore ways to resolve the standoff diplomatically.
In a telephone conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that U.S. sanctions could “backfire” and urged the U.S. not to take “hasty, poorly thought-out steps that could harm Russian-U.S. relations,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Sanctions…would inevitably hit the United States like a boomerang,” the statement added, according to a Reuters report.
Heavier U.S. and European Union sanctions could sting Russia’s already slow-growing economy and hurt its financial sector. But Moscow could retaliate and seize American and other foreign assets or cut exports of natural gas to Europe, which is heavily dependent on Russia for energy.
Meanwhile, Russian news agencies reported Saturday that Moscow is considering a freeze of U.S. military inspections in Russia in line with the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty and the 2011 Vienna agreement between Russia and NATO on confidence-building measures.
Agencies on Saturday carried a statement by an unidentified Defense Ministry official saying that Moscow sees Washington’s decision to halt military cooperation with Russia as a reason to halt inspections.
The State Department said Friday that Kerry underscored to Lavrov the importance of finding a constructive way to resolve the situation diplomatically, which would address the interests of the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the international community. Kerry and Lavrov agreed to continue to consult in the days ahead.
President Obama on Thursday slapped new visa restrictions on Russian and other opponents of Ukraine’s government in Kiev and authorized wider financial penalties against those involved in the military intervention or in stealing state assets. Obama emphasized his resolve in an hourlong telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, affirming his contention that Russia’s actions violate Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Putin, who on Friday opened the Paralympic Games in Sochi, which have been boycotted by Western nations, said Ukraine’s new, pro-Western authorities had acted illegitimately over the eastern, southeastern and Crimea regions, Reuters reported.
“Russia cannot ignore calls for help and it acts accordingly, in full compliance with international law,” Putin was quoted as saying.