05/16/2018, 12.15
RUSSIA-US

Moscow responds 'blow for blow' to US sanctions

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Countermeasures voted to penalize imports of products, investments and property of US citizens. Measures also against "traitors": those who fearing sanctions, do not invest in the Crimea or do not trade with companies hit by the US embargo. The experience of Iranian and Cuban "friends".

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Two days ago the Russian parliament, the State Duma, unanimously approved measures in response to the sanctions against Russia, decided by the American Congress in early April.

The US sanctions were aimed specifically at businesses, managers and public officials close to the Kremlin, vetoing their relationship with them. It is a further episode of the "sanctions war" started in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea; at that time, the Russians responded to sanctions with the law labelled "cheese and ham", which prohibited the importation of agricultural products from "enemies" in the West.

The new Russian counter-sanctions are designed to "respond blow for blow", as Deputy Andrej Isaev said, also looking at the experience of Iranian "friends", who have been struggling for some time with American limitations, especially under Trump, but also to the measures of the European Union against Cuba in the past.

According to Isaev "the sanctions against Russia were decided against the rules of international law, bypassing UN rules, without examining the evidence contrary to the accusations, and even immediately extending them to relatives of the accused ... many of the aluminium factories targeted by the sanctions have given rise to cities and villages, so this war is directed against the Russian people, against the entire Russian state ".

The decisions of the Duma limit work in Russia for citizens of the United States and "other states that support their policies"; propose to start the production of counterfeit American brands; prohibit the import of American medicines and agricultural products, as well as alcohol and tobacco; prevent the privatization of property in Russia by US citizens, etc ... According to Sergej Mironov, head of the party "Just Russia", "some sectors of the American economy will soon feel the effects of counter-sanctions".

Laws also against "traitors"

Along with these measures, the Duma passed a law "on the criminal liability of those who support anti-Russian sanctions on Russian territory". It is directed against those who go abroad to solicit sanctions and offer their advisory services to enemies. Isaev claimed:  "They are in fact fight against their country by putting siding with the enemy, they are traitors to the homeland". The law provides for penalties from a fine of 500 thousand rubles (about 10 thousand euros) to the confiscation of liberty for three years, or forced labor for the same period.

The "anti-traitors" law is also aimed at those who in Russia refuse to collaborate with people or companies affected by American sanctions, for example by refusing a deal with them, or by denying them the opening of bank accounts. Mironov stressed that many Russian companies refuse to work in the Crimea for fear of US sanctions, and he appealed to them: "What are you afraid of? What is more important the profit of your shareholders, or national interests? "

From now on companies that refuse to offer their services, or do business with other Russian companies for fear of sanctions, will be liable to fines from 600 thousand rubles, and their leaders may be punished with 4 years imprisonment .

Lastly, the deputies of the "Just Russia" party have added a further measure: prohibit any investment in US bonds, which may instead be carried out "in Finnish, European or national bond companies".

After the publication of the law, a heated debate was sparked in the country. Non-profit companies, especially charity organizations, have asked not to include medicines and medical equipment on the list of goods banned for import into Russia. They have sent letters to the presidents of the two branches of parliament, Valentina Matveenko and Vjačeslav Volodin and it is possible that the corrections will be inserted in a second reading in the Senate.

At the request of some deputies, further measures against foreign persons and companies that "attempt to influence electoral processes in the Russian Federation" could also be included.

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