Vladimir Putin has claimed that sanctions are being used as a political tool in order to “crush” global competition. The Russian president said that “far-fetched excuses” were being made “in the interest of national security” in order to “crush competitors or extort concessions”.
“This sanctions and restriction spiral is only worsening,” he added. Mr Putin also raised concerns over protectionism, saying the “system of multilateral cooperation built over decades” is now being “roughly broken”.
“Market openness and honest competitiveness is pushed out by withdrawal, restrictions and sanctions. You can apply different terms but the essence is the same,” he said.
The Russian leader was speaking during a keynote plenary session at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday, alongside French president Emmanuel Macron, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese vice president Wang Qishan and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde.
The US launched fresh sanctions in April against some of Russia’s richest and most powerful people, including gas company boss Vladimir Bogdanov and industrial tycoon Oleg Deripaska. The US Treasury said it was responding to Russia’s “range of malign activity around the globe”, including continued occupation of Crimea and the supply of weaponry to the Assad regime in Syria.
It also cited “malicious cyber activities” and attempts to “subvert Western democracies”.
The UK Government is also eyeing the possibility of launching its own sanctions on Russia after Brexit.
The European Union’s sanctions on Russia currently exclude oil and gas but earlier this month, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told MPs that he would “consider all possibilities once we exit the European Union and take back control of our sanctions policy”.
Relations between the UK and Russia have significantly worsened since the poisoning in March of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
The British Government has said it is “highly likely” the Kremlin was behind the attack, an allegation which the Russian government has repeatedly denied.
It sparked the expulsion of approximately 150 Russian diplomats from nearly 30 countries, with Russia making tit-for-tat moves with expulsions of its own.