Russia moves on counter-sanctions on the United States

By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 17, 2018 at 7:12 AM
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May 17 (UPI) -- Legislation enacted Thursday in the Russian parliament is designed to protect the oil-rich economy from "unfriendly" U.S. actions.

A bill proposed by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin passed its second reading on Thursday. The third, and final, reading is scheduled for Tuesday.

Volodin's measure states that countries with an adversarial stance toward Russia could be banned from public contracts. The Kremlin, it adds, could be empowered to restrict trade with the United States.

"The purpose of this federal law is the protection of interests and security of Russia, its sovereignty and territorial integrity and rights and freedoms of Russian citizens from unfriendly actions by the United States and other countries, including political and economic sanctions against Russia, Russian citizens or Russian legal entities, and from other actions posing a threat to the territorial integrity of Russia or aimed at Russia's economic and political destabilization," the text of the bill read.

U.S. and European sanctions against Russia reach deep into the country's energy sector. Sanctions imposed by Washington in response to Russian activity in Ukraine targeted Igor Sechin, the head of top Russian oil producer Rosneft, and Gazprom, the Russian gas company.

U.S. supermajor Exxon Mobil was fined $2 million in July for violation of U.S. sanctions. In March, it withdrew from a joint venture with Rosneft to comply with U.S. and European Union sanctions imposed in 2014 and expanded ones from the U.S. government last year.

The U.S. Treasury Department in April opened a safety valve by offering some sanctions relief to Russian aluminum producer United Co. RUSAL, the second-largest company of its kind outside China. In March, however, the State Department warned that any company that engages in Gazprom plans to expand its Nord Stream natural gas pipeline could be in violation of sanctions imposed on Russia last year.

More than 60 percent of total Russian exports are oil and natural gas, which combine for about 30 percent of the gross domestic product. Discussions on Volodin's bill were postponed early Thursday so legislators could consider ways to protect the business climate in Russia.

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