Putin urges economic retaliation for sanctions
MOSCOW — Russia should retaliate against the economic sanctions being imposed on the country over the Kremlin’s Ukraine policy, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. His was the strongest endorsement yet for calls in Russia to ban everything from major Western accounting firms to overflights by European airlines to frozen U.S. chickens.
Putin said that Russia should signal that it finds the economic sanctions offensive, but that it should do so without harming Russian consumers.
“The political tools of economic pressure are unacceptable and run counter to all norms and rules,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.
He noted in a meeting with a local governor south of Moscow that the Russian government had already proposed a number of measures “in order to protect the interests of national manufacturers of consumer goods,” the agencies reported. Dmitry A. Medvedev, the prime minister, was also quoted on Tuesday as saying, “We need to discuss possible retaliatory measures.”
The new sanctions imposed against Russia by the U.S. and the EU were prompted by outrage over the suspicion that Russia was continuing to supply the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with weapons, possibly including the anti-aircraft missile that was believed to have shot down a civilian passenger jet, killing all 298 aboard. Russia has suggested that Ukraine was responsible.
The government of Ukraine said Tuesday that it would continue to press its offensive against the separatists, and there were reports of shelling and fighting in several suburbs of Donetsk, the main rebel stronghold.
Initially, Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, reacted to Western sanctions by saying Moscow would not resort to “eye-for-an-eye” retaliatory measures.
Then, in the first significant fallout, a subsidiary of Aeroflot, the main Russian international airline, said it was halting all flights to Crimea and scrapping its plans to expand its domestic service, because European sanctions effectively ended its leases for Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
In April, a month after Russia annexed Crimea, Putin urged Russians to vacation there and promised subsidized tickets. The Aeroflot subsidiary, Dobrolet, was a main instrument of that policy, with fares from Moscow as low as $73 each way.
The broadened Western sanctions cover state-owned banks, military hardware, some technology for the energy industry, and entities doing business in Crimea, like Dobrolet.
Japan joined in on Tuesday with its own list of individuals and entities whose assets in Japan would be frozen.
Russia has already taken some retaliatory steps, banning certain food imports, including Ukrainian dairy products, Polish apples, Australian beef, pork from various neighbors and Moldovan fruit.