- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Russia has responded to reports of new U.S. sanctions over its military actions in Syria by vowing a “painful” counter-punch.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson threatened Russia on Oct. 16 with more sanctions over its continued support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told lawmakers on Thursday that any attempt to inflict financial hardship for its role in Syria’s civil war will be met with an “asymmetrical” and “painful” response.

Mr. Ryabkov’s comments to the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, also included the approval of a bill suspending a plutonium disposal agreement with Washington, Radio Free Europe reported.

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia largely stem from the latter’s contributions to the Assad regime’s assault on rebel-held areas of Aleppo, and U.S. sanctions imposed in 2014 over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

In addition to an ongoing air campaign on behalf of Assad’s forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin is sending warships to the region.

“They are deploying all of the Northern fleet and much of the Baltic fleet in the largest surface deployment since the end of the Cold War,” a diplomat told Reuters Wednesday on condition of anonymity. “This is not a friendly port call. In two weeks, we will see a crescendo of air attacks on Aleppo as part of Russia’s strategy to declare victory there.”

Mr. Kerry accused Russia of “crimes against humanity on a daily basis” last Sunday in London while Mr. Johnson said it may be time to begin “ratcheting up” new sanctions.

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