Further US sanctions would be ‘declaration of economic war’ - Medvedev

Russia's acting Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gives a speech at a session of the State Duma in Moscow on May 8, 2018. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 10 August 2018
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Further US sanctions would be ‘declaration of economic war’ - Medvedev

  • The warning by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev came after Washington unveiled a raft of new sanctions against Russia
  • The announcement of the sanctions prompted Russian stocks and the ruble to tumble

MOSCOW: Russia warned Friday that if the US followed through with threats to impose further harsh economic sanctions it would be seen as a “declaration of economic war.”
The warning by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev came after Washington unveiled a raft of new sanctions against Russia over its alleged use of the Novichok nerve agent against a former double agent which Britain has blamed on Moscow.
The incident, which took place in a city in southern England in March, triggered a major diplomatic crisis despite Russia’s denial of any role.
The announcement of the sanctions prompted Russian stocks and the ruble to tumble on Thursday.
“While I don’t want to comment on the talk about future sanctions, I can say that if we end up with something like a ban on banking activities or the use of certain currencies, we can clearly call this a declaration of economic war,” Medvedev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
“And we must absolutely respond to this war. By economic means, by political means and if necessary by other means,” he added.
“Our American friends must understand this.”
Announced late on Wednesday, the first set of sanctions, which will take effect in just under two weeks, impose a ban on the export to Russia of “national security sensitive” US technologies.
Until now such exports had been previously allowed on a case-by-case basis, with a senior State Department official saying the move could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports to Russia.


A second round of sanctions that could go into effect 90 days later would cut far deeper, including blocking all American bank loans to Russian entities, an outright ban on US exports to Russia, and suspension of diplomatic relations.
The State Department said the sanctions were aimed at punishing Moscow for having “used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law,” mandated under the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.
However the sanctions announcement could bolster US President Donald Trump’s claim that his administration is taking a tough stance on Moscow, even as he continues to denounce as a “witch hunt” an independent probe whether his election campaign colluded with Russia.
According to the 1991 Act, the president shall tighten the penalties within 90 days — unless the party in question provides “reliable assurances” that it no longer engages in such activities, and allows on-site inspections by United Nations observers.
Russia had on Thursday responded furiously to the sanctions, denouncing them as “categorically unacceptable” as the markets tumbled and the ruble fell to its lowest level in almost two years.
On Wednesday, Russia’s Kommersant daily published excerpts from another piece of draft US legislation which proposes a ban on US citizens purchasing Russian sovereign debt as well as steps against the country’s biggest banks as well as its oil and gas sector, a key driver of the economy.
The sanctions follow the US Treasury’s imposition of sanctions in March against 19 Russian citizens and five entities for interfering in the 2016 US election — the toughest steps against Moscow since Trump took office.
Also in March, Washington ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats, and the closure of Russia’s consulate general in Seattle over the Novichok incident.
The Russian economy has only recently started to recover from international sanctions imposed on Moscow in 2014 over its actions in Ukraine and a crash in oil prices the same year.


‘Key issues unresolved’, UN chief warns climate talks

Updated 29 min 8 sec ago
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‘Key issues unresolved’, UN chief warns climate talks

KATOWICE, Poland: “Key political issues” deadlocking UN climate talks “remain unresolved,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday after an unscheduled stop at the troubled negotiations in Poland.
The fight against climate change is a “matter of life and death today,” he told ministers and delegates at the 195-nation UN forum tasked with beating back the threat of global warming, barely 48 hours before the meet in the coal town of Katowice was set to adjourn.
The two-week talks are tasked with breathing life into the 2015 Paris Agreement, which vows to cap global warming at “well under” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and funnel hundreds of billions of dollars to poor countries already feeling the sting of deadly storms, heatwaves and droughts made worse by climate change.
But efforts to elaborate a “rule book” for the Paris pact and to boost the carbon-cutting pledges of all nations have run aground, even as a barrage of scientific reports have warned that only immediate and radical measures can avert catastrophic climate impacts.
“The eyes of the world are upon us,” said Guterres, who had not planned to return to the talks after addressing the opening plenary 10 days ago.
“To waste this opportunity would compromise our last best chance to stop runaway climate change,” he said.
“It would not only be immoral, it would be suicidal.”
A major report called for by the UN climate body concluded in October that Earth’s rise in temperature must be capped even lower — at 1.5C — to avoid the danger of runaway warming.
But several countries at the talks, led by the United States and Saudi Arabia, have blocked efforts to endorse the report, which many developing countries see as essential.
“The IPCC report on 1.5C is the basis for all future action, on what we need to do,” Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu told AFP.
Endorsing the report’s findings at the conclusion of the UN forum “is a red line issue for us.”