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  26 Jan 2022, 17:34

Russia warns against 'destructive' sanctions on Putin

  MOSCOW, Jan 26, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Russia hit back Wednesday at US threats of
direct sanctions against President Vladimir Putin, saying moves against the
Russian leader would be ineffective and hurt efforts to lower tensions over
Ukraine.

  Officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine were set for talks in
Paris on Wednesday in the latest bid to ease a crisis sparked by fears that
Moscow is preparing an invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.

  The West has warned Russia of severe consequences if it does invade, and on
Tuesday, Washington said there could be sanctions personally targeting Putin.

  Reacting to the news, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the threats
as worthless because senior Russian officials are barred from holding assets
abroad.

  But such a move, he said, would do serious damage to diplomatic efforts to
ease ratcheting tensions over Ukraine.

  "Politically, it's not painful, it's destructive," Peskov told reporters.

  The Kremlin has previously said any US sanctions personally targeting Putin
would be akin to crossing a red line, warning the move could result in a
rupture of bilateral ties.

  US President Joe Biden said Tuesday that any Russian military attack on
Ukraine would trigger "enormous consequences" and could even "change the
world".

  - High-tech export sanctions -

  Echoing Biden's message, a senior US official described potential economic
sanctions "with massive consequences" that would go far beyond measures
implemented in 2014 after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region.

  The official said new measures would include restrictions on exports of
high-tech US equipment in the artificial intelligence, quantum computing and
aerospace sectors.

  Cutting Russia off from these technologies would hit Putin's "strategic
ambitions to industrialise his economy quite hard", the official said.

  The speaker of Russia's lower house said Wednesday that Washington's threat
against Putin showed the US "wants a loyal Russian president that it can
control".

  "The United States is not happy that under President Vladimir Putin, the
Russian Federation has become strong and independent," Vyacheslav Volodin
wrote on social media.

  During weeks of talks between Russian, US and European diplomats, Western
leaders have repeatedly warned of far-reaching economic measures against
Moscow in the event of an attack.

  The next round of talks in Paris on Wednesday will bring together one of
Russia's deputy prime ministers and a senior aide to Ukrainian President
Volodymyr Zelensky, as well as diplomatic advisors to French President
Emmanuel Macron and German leader Olaf Scholz.

  Negotiations so far have failed to ease tensions, though Washington and
Moscow have agreed to keep talking.

  - Russia to take 'necessary measures' -

  Russia is expecting this week to receive written US responses to sweeping
security demands Moscow made last year that seek to dramatically limit NATO's
reach and capabilities in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR.

  Russia Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned in an address to lawmakers
Wednesday that Moscow would take "all necessary measures" if it didn't
receive constructive responses and if the West continued its "aggressive
policy".

  Moscow has meanwhile announced a spate of military drills including in
Belarus, and said Tuesday it would hold fresh exercises involving 6,000
troops near Ukraine and within the Crimea region.

  As part of separate naval exercises announced this month, Russia warships
entered the Barents Sea on Wednesday, the North Fleet said in a statement.

  The West has accused Russia of massing some 100,000 troops along the
Ukrainian border.

  Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday that the number of
Russian troops "is insufficient for a full-scale offensive" but does pose "a
direct threat" to Ukraine.

  Fears of a Russian invasion follow on from Moscow's annexation of the
Crimean peninsula in 2014 and the capture by pro-Kremlin separatists of two
self-proclaimed breakaway republics in Ukraine's east.

  More than 13,000 people have died in the fighting between government forces
and the pro-Russian rebels.

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