Russian President Vladimir Putin today slammed fresh sanctions approved by the US Senate as coming "out of nowhere" and motivated by domestic politics and historical efforts by the West to "contain" Russia.
"We know that currently there is a bill in the US Senate regarding toughening sanctions. Why? Nothing extraordinary is happening. Why did they start to talk about sanctions again out of nowhere?" Putin said at his annual phone-in with Russian citizens.
"Of course this is evidence of the continuing domestic political battle in the US, but it is completely out of nowhere. If it wasn't for Crimea, if it wasn't for other problems, they would think of other reasons to contain Russia," he said.
The US Senate voted to approve further sanctions against Russia over alleged election meddling yesterday.
The bill would also bar President Donald Trump from unilaterally easing existing sanctions imposed since 2014 over Moscow's annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine.
Putin however said Crimea was merely an excuse for the West to hurt an economic competitor.
"Whenever our partners in the world have felt that Russia is a serious competitor, they have used various pretexts to impose limitations," he argued.
"There were various pretexts in the Soviet era and even before the October Revolution," he said. "This has happened throughout all of our history."
Russia has imposed counter-measures against most Western countries, blocking imports of produce and other goods, but Putin said these would be lifted in the event that sanctions are stopped.
"If our partners lift the sanctions... We will have to do the same, otherwise there would be problems under the World Trade Organisation," he said.
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