MOSCOW • Russia’s prime minister sternly warned the United States against ramping up sanctions, saying Friday that Moscow would retaliate with economic, political and unspecified “other” means.
The tough message from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev marked what the Kremlin sees as a red line, reflecting growing dismay with announced U.S. sanctions that have sent the Russian ruble plummeting to its lowest level in two years.
The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Washington would impose new sanctions this month after determining this week that Moscow used a military grade nerve agent in March to poison an ex-Russian spy in England. Russia has strongly denied involvement in the poisonings of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
According to the State Department, the sanctions will include the presumed denial of export licenses for Russia to purchase many items with national security implications.
Proposals in Congress include legislation targeting Russia’s state-controlled banks and freezing their operations in dollars, which would deal Russia a major economic blow.
Medvedev warned the U.S. that such a move would cross a red line.
“If something like a ban on bank operations or currency use follows, it will amount to a declaration of economic war,” the Russian prime minister said. “And it will warrant a response with economic means, political means and, if necessary, other means. Our American friends should understand that.”
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a telephone call Friday the sanctions were “categorically objectionable.”
Medvedev’s tone differed considerably from the nonchalant ones President Vladimir Putin and his lieutenants have used when talking about Western sanctions and downplaying their impact.
Russia-U.S. ties have sunk to their lowest level since Cold War times amid tensions over Ukraine, the war in Syria and the allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Moscow’s hopes for better ties with Washington under President Trump have withered as his administration has introduced waves of sanctions against Russia.