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.


Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

Updated 15 August 2018
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Congo’s health ministry says Ebola spreads to 2nd province

  • The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province
  • The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups

BENI, Congo: Congo’s latest deadly Ebola outbreak has spread into a neighboring province, the health ministry said Tuesday, as health workers began using an experimental treatment for the disease.
Health officials are hoping the mAb114 therapy, isolated from a survivor of an Ebola outbreak in 1995, will be effective in this outbreak that so far has 30 confirmed cases including 14 deaths.
Five patients have been given the treatment, said the World Health Organization’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Four other experimental treatments have been approved for use, he said.
The outbreak spread from North Kivu province into neighboring Ituri province in Congo’s turbulent northeast when a man who had been treated for heart problems in Mangina, where the outbreak was declared Aug. 1, returned home, the health ministry said. He has since died and tests confirmed he had Ebola.
Vaccinations began last week in Mangina and Beni, the major town about 30 kilometers (18 miles) away where Ebola treatment centers have been set up. Health authorities are using what is called a ring vaccination technique in which health workers are vaccinated first, along with contacts of Ebola patients and their contacts.
Seven of the nearly 75 health workers in Mangina have been infected, Tedros said. More than 200 health workers have been vaccinated, along with 20 residents in the Beni region, he said. There are 3,000 vaccine doses in Congo.
The work to contain Ebola is challenged by the presence of several armed groups in the densely populated region close to the Ugandan border. WHO has called for secure access to all affected populations and for the cessation of hostilities.
“The virus is dangerous to us all,” Tedros said.
There are designated “red zones” where health workers cannot go because of the insecurity, raising concerns that cases could easily spread there, he said.
“We are on an epidemiological precipice,” WHO’s emergency preparedness chief, Dr. Peter Salama, said in a Twitter post, with a limited window of opportunity to stop the outbreak from spreading into those areas.
For now the epicenter of the outbreak is in and around Beni so aid workers have been able to move with relative safety, said Jean-Philippe Marcoux, Congo country director for Mercy Corps.
The area around Mangina and Beni, however, is “almost completely surrounded by armed groups,” the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement.
North Kivu is densely populated with more than 1 million displaced people, and while this is Congo’s tenth Ebola outbreak health officials have said the local population is not familiar with the disease. That makes outreach more challenging.
“The unknown can create more fear,” Marcoux said.
The WHO chief said the risk of international spread is low. He said officials have been in contact with neighboring Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.