May 23 (UPI) -- With its energy sector the target of U.S. sanctions pressure, a Russian legislator on Wednesday proposed making those sanctions synonymous with treason.
Andrei Isayev, the head of legislation in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, said discussions were under way to consider counter-sanctions measures against the United States. The measure could criminalize those sanctions.
"It was also proposed to make this component equal to treason," he was quoted by Russian news agency TASS as saying.
Russia continues to face pressure from the U.S. government for its role in Ukrainian and Syrian conflicts. Speaking to reporters, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington would continue to hold other governments responsible for what it sees as malign behavior.
In March, the State Department warned that any company that engages in Gazprom plans to expand its Nord Stream natural gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea could be in violation of sanctions imposed on Russia last year.
Gazprom's partner in the project, Austrian energy company OMV, said the network is "of critical strategic importance ... as it will secure consistent, long-term gas supplies to Europe."
More than 60 percent of total Russian exports are oil and natural gas, which combine for about 30 percent of the gross domestic product.
Considerations taken by Isayev, a member of the ruling United Russia party, is at least the second time lawmakers have considered counter-sanctions measures. A bill proposed by State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin measure stated that countries with an adversarial stance toward Russia could be banned from public contracts. The Kremlin, the measure adds, could be empowered to restrict trade with the United States.