Senior Russian politician calls US sanctions ‘blackmail’

Moscow, March 18: Moscow Monday slammed a US decision to introduce sanctions against several Russian politicians over the Ukrainian crisis, labeling the sanctions a ” political blackmail”.

“Imposing the sanctions on the Russian top officials who exercise their state functions is an unprecedented decision,” Xinhua quoted Russian Federal Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko as saying.

Matvienko said the practice was unheard even during the Cold War years and called it a “political blackmail.”

The official added that she has no banking accounts, assets, business or property abroad.

“This is why such declarations are an attempt to make me change my principal position,” she said, adding that she was not going to offer excuses to anyone.

“I am standing for and will stand for Russian national interests, not West’s geopolitical interests. No one will intimidate us,” Matvienko said.

On Monday, the US imposed sanctions against at least seven senior Russian state officials and members of parliament, as well as against a number of Ukrainian officials connected to the ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and against several top officials of breakaway Crimea.

The sanctions envisage blocking these persons’ property in the US and visa bans.

The European Union has also imposed similar restrictions on 21 Russian and Ukrainian citizens.

Crimea, a Ukrainian autonomous republic, held a referendum Sunday, with some 96.6 percent of the voters for joining Russia. Major Western countries have pledged not to recognise the results and have been mulling more sanctions against Russia.

IANS