WASHINGTON — Russia has canceled a meeting between senior US and Russian officials that was aimed at resolving problems in the relationship between the two countries.
The announcement comes after the US announced an expansion of sanctions against Russian individuals and legal entities in response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The previously planned meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov and US Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon was due to take place in St Petersburg.
“As we know, in the next few days there were plans to continue the bilateral consultations on the ‘irritants’ that we have accumulated in our Russian-American relations, plans to find ways out of the extremely difficult situation in which the American side wore the partnership and cooperation with Russia down,” a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“After yesterday’s decision on sanctions, the situation does not allow for a round of such a dialogue, especially as there is no content for it, since Washington didn’t offer nor is offering now anything specific,” the ministry said.
The statement added that Washington’s desire to seek common ground with Russia sounds unconvincing, and warned there will be a response, including “practical retaliatory measures.”
The US tightened sanctions on Russia Tuesday in a bid to force the end of its occupation of Crimea.
Two Russian government officials were among 38 people and entities who were added to a list of sanctions targets. Their assets will now be frozen, and they will be forbidden from doing business with US citizens and companies, or raising financing in America.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that the steps are consistent with the US commitment to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis in Ukraine. Sanctions would not be lifted until Russia leaves Crimea, it added.
State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the US regretted Russia’s decision to cancel the talks, adding that the package of sanctions issued Tuesday only reinforced those already in place.
“Let’s remember that these sanctions didn’t just come out of nowhere. Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor, Ukraine, Nauert added.
“If the Russians seek an end to these sanctions, they know very well the US position: Our sanctions on Russia related Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements. Our sanctions related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula,” she said.
Nauert pointed questions to the Russian government to explain why the meeting was canceled.
“From our perspective, and as Secretary Tillerson has made clear, there are many issues to be discussed. We remain open to future discussions,” she said.