‘Playing with fire’: Russia’s dark warning to the West after sanctions

Thursday - 04/03/2021 14:45
Russia has been slapped with sanctions this week. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFPSource:AFP
Russia has been slapped with sanctions this week. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFPSource:AFP
In a chilling Cold War-like warning, Russia has warned the West it is not to be messed with after Joe Biden punished the nuclear superpower.

In a chilling Cold War-like warning to Western nations, Russia has warned the world that antagonising Russia was akin to “playing with fire” after the nuclear superpower was slapped with sanctions from the USA.

The measures from the Biden administration and the EU were taken in response to the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and will target senior Russian officials.

The Kremlin accused Washington and Brussels of interference after the US and the EU introduced fresh penalties on Tuesday over Mr Navalny, who was jailed last month on returning from Germany where he was recovering from exposure to a nerve agent.

The sanctions further erode ties between Moscow and the West following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

“We believe such measures are absolutely unacceptable because they significantly damage already bad relations” with Washington and Brussels, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

He said the new sanctions amounted to “interference” in Russia’s domestic affairs and vowed to take action in response, without specifying measures.
 

Russia has been slapped with sanctions this week. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFP
Russia has been slapped with sanctions this week. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/AFPSource:AFP

 

Peskov’s comments echoed foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova who warned the West “not to play with fire” and said Russia would respond according to “the principle of reciprocity”.

“We will continue to systematically and resolutely defend our national interests and rebuff aggression,” she said in a statement published late on Tuesday.

“All this is just an excuse to continue overt interference in our internal affairs. We do not intend to put up with this. We will respond based on the principle of reciprocity, but not necessarily symmetrically.”

The sanctions announced this week by Washington could signal a harder line from President Joe Biden towards Russia than the previous four years under Donald Trump.

In a statement released to The Hill, a senior Biden administration official said the USA would not be backing down.

“Our goal is to have a relationship with Russia that is predictable and stable. Where there are opportunities for it to be constructive, and it is in our interest, we intend to pursue them,” a senior administration official told The Hill this week.

“Given Russia’s conduct in recent years, there will also undoubtedly be adversarial elements and we will not shy away from those. The United States is neither trying to reset our relations with Russia nor are we seeking to escalate.”
 

Joe Biden’s sanctions could signal a harder line towards Russia. Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFP
Joe Biden’s sanctions could signal a harder line towards Russia.
Picture: Brendan Smialowski/AFPSource:AFP

 

The new sanctions target several individuals within Russia’s security sector, including Federal Security Service (FSB) head Alexander Bortnikov. Washington is also imposing export controls on several business entities involved in biological agent production.

Mr Peskov again denied Russian involvement and said claims the FSB was involved in a poisoning attack were “outrageous”.

Mr Navalny maintains his near fatal attack was carried out by the FSB on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a claim vehemently denied by the Kremlin.

On Wednesday, he joked that “everything is fine”, in his first message from the Kolchugino detention centre northeast of Moscow.

Although Mr Navalny is deprived of books and news from outside, an Instagram message was nevertheless posted in which he quipped that “the only entertainment is haute cuisine experiments”.

That included drying bread to make croutons with his cellmates. “We are having a competition of two cuisines: street food and molecular,” the political figure said.

Mr Putin’s most vocal domestic critic was flown to Germany in August for treatment after falling violently ill on a flight from Siberia.
 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny fell violently ill on a flight. Picture: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny fell violently ill on a flight.
Picture: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFPSource:AFP

 

European laboratories later concluded he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

The popular 44-year-old anti-graft campaigner, who has tracked the wealth of Russia’s elites, returned to Moscow in January only to be arrested and sentenced to a penal colony for two and a half years for allegedly violating the terms of a suspended sentence.

His return and imprisonment spurred nationwide rallies in late January, decrying Mr Putin’s two-decade rule and the arrest.

Both Washington and Brussels have demanded Mr Navalny’s immediate release while two United Nations human rights experts on Monday called for an international investigation into his poisoning.

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