Russia Tells US Sanctions over Ukraine Conflict ‘Pointless’, Builds 20 New Military Bases on Western Border

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) at the State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 10 May 2017. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Russia’s top diplomat Lavrov has told his American counterpart Tillerson that new US sanctions against Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine are ‘pointless’.
  • Russia has responded to a new set of US sanctions announced earlier this week by calling off consultations between high-ranking diplomats.
  • Lavrov has also scolded the US over the actions of US-led coalition fighting ISIS, arguing that its actions are “hindering” efforts to “suppress” the terrorists.
  • Russia’s Defense Minister Shoigu has announced that 20 new military bases and units are being built in Western Russia, which borders NATO member states.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that attempts to exert pressure on Moscow through sanctions were “pointless”, after earlier this week the US slapped new sanctions on Russia over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and the ongoing pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass region.

In the winter of 2013-2014, the Euromaidan Revolution in Kiev ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych, and promised to bring Ukraine closer to the West, including through EU and N ATO membership.

In response, led by President Vladimir Putin, in February-March 2014, Russia occupied and then annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea.

Shortly after Russia’s seizure of Crimea, a pro-Russian insurgency possibly instigated and aided by Moscow began in the Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine and has been raging ever since.

Since then, the war in Ukraine has claimed some 10,000 lives, and has displaced millions of people.

The Ukrainian’s standoff with the forces of the separatist so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic along a 400 km (250-mile) frontline has thus turned into a “cold’ conflict with “hot” flashpoints.

The US, the EU, and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Russia over both the annexation of the Crimea and the insurgency in Ukraine’s Donbass which the West deems to be instigated and supported by Moscow.

Top Russian officials recently told the West to “stop obsessing” over the Crimea, and kept denying Moscow’s involvement in the war in Donbass.

Earlier this week the EU renewed one of its three sets of sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea and the ongoing war in Ukraine, and just extended the third set of sanctions. Another set of EU sanctions against Russia was renewed in March.

‘Pointless’ Sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that attempts to exert pressure on Moscow through sanctions were “pointless”, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday, as cited by state-run news agency TASS.

“While assessing the prospects for bilateral dialogue, Sergey Lavrov pointed out that attempts to exert pressure on Russia through sanctions were pointless, though Washington once again used this tool on June 20,” the statement reads.

“Such steps put Russian-US ties at serious risk, while bilateral relations are already going through a tough period,” the Russian Foreign Ministry added.

The Russian top diplomat also stressed that Moscow expected Washington to respond to its proposals aimed at normalizing bilateral relations.

“In order to assess the current situation, Russia had to postpone the meeting between a Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and a US Undersecretary of State, who were scheduled to meet on June 23 to discuss issues concerning Russian-US relations,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stated, referring to Moscow’s immediate response to the new US sanctions.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and US Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon were set to hold consultations.

Russian paratroopers dressed in field uniforms attend a military parade in Moscow, Russia, 09 May 2017. Photo: Sergei Chirikov/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

‘Hindering’ ‘Suppression of Terrorists’

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov also scolded the US for the actions of the US-led coalition fighting the ISIS terrorist group (“Islamic State in Iraq and Syria”).

Russia’s intervention in the ongoing Syrian Civil War since October 2015 has rescued the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from collapsing, and helped it crack down primarily on the moderate opposition rebels, and less so on ISIS.

“While discussing global issues, Sergey Lavrov reiterated Moscow’s attitude towards the actions that the US-led coalition takes, which violate Syria’s sovereignty and hinder activities aimed at suppressing terrorists and facilitating efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Moscow calls on Washington to strictly abide by all the previously reached agreements concerning various aspects of the Syrian settlement,” it added.

It is reminded that on June 18, a US F-18 fighter jet from the US-led coalition shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 warplane. According to Russia, the Syrian plane was supporting the government troops’ offensive against ISIS in the area of al-Rasaf, 40 km southwest of Raqqa. The pilot ejected and was rescued by Syrian troops.

The following day, June 19, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that Russia would track the US-led coalition’s warplanes and drones west of the Euphrates River in Syria, and suspended cooperation with the US based on the memorandum on preventing incidents and ensuring flights safety, the so called deconfliction agreement.

20 New Bases in Western Russia

Russia’s Defense Ministry plans to establish around 20 military units and bases in the country’s Western Military District by the end of 2017, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Thursday during the ministry’s board meeting, as cited by TASS.

“Around 20 military units and bases will be established in the Western Military District before the end of the year, around 40 garrison towns are currently being built,” Shoigu said, adding that modern weapons were being supplied.

In his words, during the past winter the troops deployed in Russia’s Western Military District, which borders NATO member states, had increased their combat capabilities by 2.5 times in comparison with the same period of the previous year.

“Since the beginning of the year, more than 100 snap combat readiness checks have been held in the Western Military District, which confirmed that the troops were ready for military activities,” the Russian Defense Minister stressed.

Shoigu also said that the presence of Russia’s Baltic Fleet ships presence in the important areas of the Atlantic Ocean had been renewed after a long break.

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