Russian scoffs at Western sanctions over Crimea

by Reuters
Tuesday, 18 March 2014 15:47 GMT

* Russians mock United States and European Union

* Says sanctions will miss the mark, but vows to retaliate

* Putin's "grey cardinal" says feels like he has won an Oscar (Adds quotes, context, recasts throughout)

By Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - A senior ally of Vladimir Putin accused the West of behaving like capricious children over Kremlin moves to annex Crimea, and another said his own inclusion on a sanctions list was "a kind of political Oscar from America for best male supporting role."

Prominent supporters of President Putin, who signed a treaty on Tuesday to formally wrest Crimea from Ukraine, mocked Western countries over visa bans and asset freezes imposed by the United States and the European Union in an effort to stall Putin's drive to bring the Ukrainian region into Russia.

The Foreign Ministry said Western sanctions would "lead nowhere" and that Russia would retaliate.

The United States imposed visa bans and asset freezes on 11 Russians and Ukrainians on Monday, including four Russian lawmakers. The EU imposed the same punishments on 21 people. The measures bar those affected from traveling to the United States and EU and freeze any assets they hold there.

Several Russians targeted said they considered the sanctions a badge of honour.

"This does not bother me - on the contrary, I'm proud," Interfax news agency quoted Vladislav Surkov, a close aide once known as Putin's 'grey cardinal' for his behind-the-scenes influence, as saying.

"I consider this a kind of political Oscar from America for best male supporting role."

Sergei Zheleznyak, a pro-Kremlin deputy speaker of the State Duma, Russia's lower parliament house, said the United States and EU were acting like "capricious kindergarten children", Interfax reported.

With acid sarcasm that reflected the tone of ties which have hit a post-Cold War low, the Duma urged U.S. President Barack Obama and the EU to impose the same penalties on hundreds more members of parliament.


"We propose that Mr. Obama and the ... Eurobureaucrats include all State Duma deputies who voted in favour of this resolution on the list of Russian citizens affected by U.S. and EU sanctions," a declaration adopted by a 353-0 vote said.

Western governments say that Russia has taken control over Ukraine's Crimea region by sending in troops, which Moscow denies, and have denounced a weekend referendum in which authorities said nearly 97 percent of Crimeans voted to join Russia as an illegal violation of Ukrainian sovereignty.

Crimea has a majority ethnic Russian population.

"They don't like the fact that our brotherly peoples .. have practically unanimously decided on ... integration into the Russian Federation," the Duma declaration said.

It accused the United States of "political hysteria", asserting that Washington targeted Duma deputy Yelena Mizulina not for any link to Crimea but because she championed a ban on gay "propaganda" that Washington says is discriminatory.

Officials singled out for sanctions said the measures would miss the mark because they hold no assets in the West.

"Canadian PM Stephen Harper put me on the list," Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is on U.S. and Canadian sanctions list, said on Twitter. "Looks like they're also looking for my accounts and villas. They wish."

Igor Sechin, a Putin ally who heads state oil company Rosneft, likened the sanctions to blackmail and said such tactics would work against the West's own "agents of influence".

"As for the country's loyal elite, sanctions have always led to the consolidation and concentration of forces against pressure from outside," Prime news agency quoted Sechin, who has not been hit with sanctions, as saying.

"I felt some pride to see myself on the blacklist," Duma member Sergei Mironov, who is on the EU list, told Interfax. "It's funny that they're freezing accounts ... I have no accounts. Let them impose whatever sanctions they like." (Additional reporting by Thomas Grove, Maria Tsvetkova, Elizabeth Piper and Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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