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Russian Official: New US Sanctions Push Ties to Unchartered Territory | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Donald Trump and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin hold a meeting on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7, 2017. (AFP)

The US House of Representatives approved tough new sanctions on Russia, a move which Moscow said could seriously hamper improving strained ties between the two sides.

Russia’s deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday that the sanctions push ties into “unchartered territory.”

“What has happened goes beyond the realms of common sense,” he told state-run TASS news agency.

“The authors and sponsors of this bill are taking a very serious step towards destroying the possibilities for normalizing relations with Russia.”

The sanctions package — which also contains measures aimed at Iran and North Korea — passed 419 to three on Tuesday after weeks of negotiations. The US Congress’ new package of sanctions against Russia stem from its alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

It now heads to the Senate before President Donald Trump will face the tricky choice of whether to veto the legislation, which has been opposed by the White House and considerably constrains his ability to lift the penalties.

If Trump does sign off on the bill then Russia looks likely to retaliate, with Ryabkov insisting Moscow has warned Washington “dozens of times” that any new sanctions would “not go unanswered.”

But for now Moscow appears to be keeping its powder dry as it waits to see how Trump reacts.

“We are not giving in to emotions,” Ryabkov said.

“We will work to look for ways to move ahead, persistently and consistently searching for ways to compromise of issues important to Russia and the US.”

The 184-page measure serves as a rebuke of the Kremlin’s military aggression in Ukraine and Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed regime leader Bashar Assad. It aims to hit Putin and the oligarchs close to him by targeting Russian corruption, human rights abusers and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports.

Trump’s “rhetoric toward the Russians has been far too accommodating and conciliatory, up to this point,” said Republican Representative Charlie Dent.

“Russian behavior has been atrocious,” he said. “They deserve these enhanced sanctions. Relations with Russia will improve when Russian behavior changes and they start to fall back into the family of nations.”

Ties between Russia and the US plummeted to their lowest point since the Cold War after the Kremlin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 saw Washington impose sanctions on Moscow.

Trump repeatedly pledged during his campaign to try to boost relations with Russia, but allegations that the Kremlin meddled in the vote to get him to the White House have made any signs of going soft on Moscow politically toxic.

Russian officials had welcomed Donald Trump’s presidential win last year, hoping to mend relations with the United States which reached a post-Cold War low under President Barack Obama.