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Moscow reacts with anger and frustration over new sanctions bill

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russian officials expressed anger and frustration Wednesday at the new sanctions bill passed Tuesday in the House of Representatives, calling the proposal a devastating step in already fragile Russia-U.S. relations.  

“The situation is highly worrisome,” said Konstantin Kosachev, a Russian senator in the upper house of parliament and the chair of that body’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“We will have to get used to the new situation when we don't have any major reasons left to build relations with the U.S.,” he said at a press conference in Moscow.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov criticized the sanctions, saying that by adopting them, Washington was "closing off the prospect for normalizing ties." 

“This is sad news for Russian-U.S. relations and for international law, relations and trade and economy,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call Wednesday.

Many blamed the move on Russophobic “hysteria” infecting Washington politics. The bill has yet to be signed into law by President Trump, but the assumption in Moscow is that the White House has been backed into a corner and the president has no choice.

“The law about new sanctions is adopted. Trump will sign it confirming that he is a hostage of the Congress and of the anti-Russian hysteria. It's a new level of confrontation,” wrote Alexey Pushkov, an outspoken Russian senator, on Twitter. 

“There can't be any illusions: The goal of new sanctions is to increase pressure on Russia. Trump is forced to conduct Obama's politics, turning him into H.Clinton,” he said in another tweet. 

For many Russian officials, the sanctions bill seemed to end any speculation that Trump’s election would mean a restart on improving U.S.-Russia relations. A meeting between the two leaders in Hamburg, Germany, seemed to give many in Moscow hope that things might improve. Indeed, Putin’s performance at the July G20 summit in Germany was hailed as a success back home.

But the sanctions bill suggested to some in Moscow that Trump’s struggles on the U.S. political stage were a wider challenge than previously understood.

Kosachev posted on Facebook [link in Russian] urging Russia to retaliate in a way that would be painful to America. In a press conference later in the day, he said that although the law had not yet been signed by Trump, engaging in a retaliation game would not serve either country's best interests.

“We should look for counter measures that won't harm our national interests, but will be painful for the Americans. It should not be just symbolic,” he said at a news conference in Moscow.

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