- The Washington Times - Friday, March 4, 2016

Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said Moscow reserves the right to reciprocate against Washington after President Obama this week renewed sanctions imposed as a result of the 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

“We regret to note that the United States continues to enthusiastically play the anti-Russian sanctions game,” the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement published on its website this week.

“It is high time Washington comprehended the futility of its policy of sanctions and the danger of the entire line of confrontation with Russia. For our part, we reserve the right to take reciprocal actions to protect our interests.”

The ministry’s warning occurred on the heels of Mr. Obama’s decision on Wednesday to prolong sanctions against senior Russian officials and companies. The U.S. sanctions were put in place through executive orders signed in 2014 after Crimea, a part of neighboring Ukraine, was annexed by Russia.

“The actions and policies addressed in these Executive Orders continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States,” Mr. Obama wrote on Wednesday this week. In a letter to Congress, he blamed Russia for threatening the peace, security, stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and said Moscow’s actions there have undermined democratic processes and institutions.

On its part, Russia’s Foreign Ministry blamed the Obama administration for the ongoing unrest in mainland Ukraine, which sprouted after the nation’s pro-Putin president, Viktor Yanukovych, was driven out of office in 2014. Russia soon after reclaimed Crimea, a former Soviet Union republic, and has been accused of arming rebel forces in eastern Ukraine where tensions remain high.

“For the past two years, the United States has been trying to deny its responsibility for the coup in Ukraine and, currently, for the destructive consequences of the rule of its clients in Kiev,” Thursday’s statement said.

“The United States which is methodically weakening the framework of bilateral relations should heed the fact that it is therefore undermining opportunities for cooperation on key international issues, all the more so as the U.S. side is regularly asking Russia to help address these issues.”

Among those affected by the U.S.-imposed sanctions are members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration and that of Mr. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president, as well as the self-proclaimed leaders in portions of eastern Ukraine that have claimed allegiance to Russia after Crimea’s annexation.

In a separate statement released by the ministry this week, officials thanked the U.S. for its help in returning a cache of historic Russian documents that had been stolen in the 1990s.

“We hope that this experience of depoliticised hands-on cooperation will prove useful in many other areas of Russian-U.S. relations, which have been undermined by the U.S. administration’s sanctions policy over the past two years,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Russia has previously responded to sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union countries by banning food imports from western nations. EU diplomats said on Wednesday that they too would extend sanctions targeting nearly 150 Russian officials and pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine, the Wall Street Journal reported.

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