The View from Russia | 24 April 2014

Russia reacts to looming sanctions

The View from Russia is a fortnightly series in which Open Briefing’s Russia researcher, Erin Decker, examines news co erage from four ma!or Russian sources" R# is a tele ision networ$ an% news we&site fun%e% &y the Russian go ernment' the Moscow Times is an (nglish)language newspaper that pro i%es a foreign perspecti e' Kommersant is an in%epen%ent %aily newspaper' Nezavisimaya Gazeta is a pri ately) owne% newspaper that is generally regar%e% as pro)opposition* +ollowing Russia’s sei,ure an% annexation of -rimea last month, the .nite% /tates an% the (uropean .nion implemente% targete% sanctions against a list of Russian an% .$rainian in%i i%uals an% companies* #he sanctions are mainly asset free,es an% isa &ans* +or the most part, they %i% not ha e much of an impact, an% some Russian officials e en toute% the ./ tra el restrictions place% on them as a &a%ge of honour* On 10 April, an international %eal to %efuse tensions in .$raine was signe% &etween the .nite% /tates, (., Russia an% .$raine in 1ene a, /wit,erlan%* 2owe er, the ma!or pro isions of the %eal, which calle% for pro)Russian militia groups to %isarm an% cease occupation of go ernment &uil%ings, ha e not &een followe%, an% tensions &etween Russia an% the 3est ha e only continue% to rise* #he .nite% /tates is on the cusp of imposing a%%itional, more se ere, economic sanctions against Russia, which coul% in%ee% ha e %e&ilitating effects on the Russian economy* #hus far, Russia has %ismisse% the threat of new sanctions* RT reporte% that 4rime 5inister 6mitry 5e% e%e a%%resse% concerns o er these possi&le new sanctions &y insisting that Russia coul% easily mitigate their effects* Referring to a%%itional sanctions on Russia, 5e% e%e sai%, 7if our western partners %o ma$e such a mista$e, intensi e wor$ in other mar$ets will minimise Russia’s losses’, though the prime minister %i% not ela&orate* R#’s co erage was mainly %ismissi e, &ut also ha% an aggressi e tone when it 8uote% 5e% e%e as saying that Russia woul% fight &ac$ &ecause 7the go ernment must pro i%e &usinesses with maximum protection* 3e will ta$e legal recourse, we will show our teeth*’ #he prime minister also calle% (urope’s assertion that it coul% possi&ly import gas from the .nite% /tates in the e ent of a &an on Russian energy imports a 7&luff’ an% accuse% .$raine of unlawfully using Russian gas for years*

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Kommersant attri&ute% a %efiant tone to Russia’s reaction to the threat of 3estern sanctions* 9n an article matter)of)factly title% 7-hina /upports Russia’, the newspaper reporte% that -hina has gi en Russia assurances that if any 3estern states impose sanctions, it will assist Russia with its 7lagging commercial an% economic components’* 2owe er, the comment, which was %eci%e%ly ague, was ma%e within the framewor$ of a pre iously sche%ule% &ilateral economic %iscussion &etween the two countries, where they %iscusse% se eral other, more specific areas of cooperation that were on the ta&le prior to the recent unrest in .$raine* 3hile Kommersant portraye% the comment as a strong proclamation of support, the rest of the article %i% not reinforce this &y inclu%ing any specific information regar%ing what -hina woul% ple%ge to %o to support Russia in the e ent of 3estern sanctions* Another Kommersant article also emphasise% -hina’s suppose% loyalty to Russia, an% state% that -hina ha% strongly re&uffe% ./ attempts to get it to !oin sanctions against 5oscow" 7-hina consi%ere% such pressure to &e outrageous an% re!ecte% the i%ea of punishing Russians for Russia’s policy towar% .$raine*’ Kommersant portraye% -hina’s support of Russia as ro&ust an% une8ui ocal' howe er, this was in star$ contrast to the other pu&lications examine%, such as the Moscow Times, which portraye% -hina as much more cautious an% neutral in its &eha iour towar% Russia* #he Moscow Times was the only pu&lication examine% that mentione% that Russia was attempting to 7woo +rench &usiness elite as the threat of tougher sanctions o er the .$raine crisis looms’* 2owe er, the article pointe% out that such o ertures were futile, gi en that +rench 4resi%ent +rancois 2ollan%e ha% alrea%y sai% that +rance woul% still &e see$ing 7firm an% gra%uate%’ sanctions against Russia together with its (uropean partners* 2owe er, the newspaper %i% report that Russia is trying to fight &ac$ any way it can o er the last roun% of ./ sanctions an% is consi%ering filing a lawsuit against the .nite% /tates with the 3orl% #ra%e Organisation :3#O; o er sanctions against Russian &an$s* /e eral Russian &an$s, along with their chairs an% other officials, were sanctione% as part of 3ashington’s puniti e measures o er Russia’s annexation of -rimea* Russia has sai% that it hopes 7to use the mechanism of the 3#O to $eep our partners in chec$ regar%ing this issue*’ 5eanwhile, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reporte% that .$raine is getting &ehin% the 3est an% acti ely encouraging the implementation of %amaging sanctions on Russia* 5eeting with ./ <ice 4resi%ent =oseph Bi%en, .$rainian opposition lea%er <italiy >lich$o sai%, 7#he 3est shoul% imme%iately implement se ere sanctions* #hey shoul% encompass all sectors of the economy an% &e truly painful* .nfortunately, Russia’s lea%ership un%erstan%s only the language of force*’ Comment 3hile Russia ha% %erisi ely &rushe% off the first roun%s of 3estern sanctions, the >remlin now appears to &e %isplaying some genuine concern o er the more se ere sanctions the 3est is threatening to implement within the coming %ays if Russia %oes not cease interference in .$raine an% pull its troops &ac$ from the &or%er* 4ro)>remlin me%ia sources are %oing their &est to put up a strong front for Russia &y running reassuring statements from go ernment officials an% playing up Russia’s relationships with its few allies, such as -hina* 2owe er, with capital floo%ing out of the country, its stoc$ mar$et falling an% the rou&le wea$ening, Russia is all too aware that a thir% roun% of economic sanctions coul% in%ee% ha e a %e astating impact*

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