Russian PM strongly warns US against ramping up sanctions


MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's prime minister sternly warned the United States today against ramping up sanctions, saying that Moscow will retaliate with economic, political and unspecified "other" means.

The tough message from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev marked what the Kremlin sees as a red line, reflecting a growing dismay with the new U.S. sanctions that already have sent the Russian ruble plummeting to its lowest level in two years.

The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Washington made the determination this week that Moscow had used the Novichok nerve agent to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in March, and that sanctions would follow later this month. Russia has strongly denied involvement in the Salisbury poisonings.

According to the State Department, those sanctions will include the presumed denial of export licenses for Russia to purchase many items with national security implications.

New sanctions proposals in the U.S. Congress include legislation targeting Russia's state-controlled banks and freezing their operations in dollars – a move that would deal a heavy blow to the Russian economy.

Medvedev warned the U.S. such a move would cross a red line.

"If something like a ban on bank operations or currency use follows, it will amount to a declaration of economic war," he said. "And it will warrant a response with economic means, political means and, if necessary, other means. Our American friends should understand that."

Medvedev's tough tone was in stark contrast with past statements by President Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants, who have taken a nonchalant posture while talking about U.S. and other Western sanctions, seeking to downplay their impact on the Russian economy.

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