Russian Embassy Decries New US Sanctions as 'Erroneous Step'

Sergei Skripal's cat and guinea pigs found dead in his Salisbury house

Moscow said on Friday it would respond firmly to new USA sanctions imposed against Russian businessmen, companies and government officials for what Washington called "malign activity" including alleged meddling in the 2016 United States election.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said USA officials would continue to work toward a meeting with Putin at some point.

Rather than punishing Russian Federation for one specific action, the new sanctions hit back at the Kremlin for its "ongoing and increasingly brazen pattern" of bad behavior, said the officials, who weren't authorized to comment by name and briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. It also denounced the U.S. move as "yet another misguided step that [leads] to the destruction of free enterprise, competition and integration in the world economy." .

Twelve companies owned by the oligarchs, the state arms exporter and a bank are also sanctioned.

Above all else, Russia's attempts to subvert Western democracy prompted the US sanctions, officials said, in a direct nod to concerns that the USA president has failed to challenge Putin for alleged interference in the 2016 election that brought Trump to power.

The bill provides sanctions against individuals involved in the Skripal's case and Russian financial institutions, till Putin stops acting towards the murder of expatriates and dissidents outside of Russia. "I never made secret of my criticism of the United States foreign policy, and I will not change my stance". But Leonid Slutsky, who chairs the foreign relations committee in Russia's lower house of parliament, said there was "no sensible reasons or grounds" for the USA actions.

The Trump administration's action means USA citizens can no longer engage in dealings with the proscribed individuals or entities.

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His advice to Trump came just hours after a CNN report that Trump was in the preliminary stages of preparing for a possible interview with Mueller later this year.

They officials ticked through a list of complaints about Russian actions overseas, including its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, and cyber-hacking. Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government's destabilizing activities, he said.

In parallel, and to Trump's fury, former Federal Bureau of Investigation chief Robert Mueller has been empowered as a special prosecutor to investigate possible collusion between the president's campaign and Russian Federation.

"The Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites", Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

Ties had already plummeted to a post-Cold War low over last month's attack on a former Russian double agent living in England.

"Washington has delivered yet another blow on the Russian-US relations". Some, but not all, of the individuals sanctioned will also be prohibited from entering the United States.

Trump's administration reacted by expelling 60 Russians they accused of being spies working under diplomatic cover and Moscow responded in kind. Click any of these buttons below!

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