The threat of sanctions is a tool for Washington to divide the country’s big business and Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov has said. The Kremlin spokesman pointed out that the timing coincides with the approaching 2018 presidential election in Russia.
Dmitry Peskov was replying to questions submitted to him by an international news agency on Thursday. He didn’t mention the media outlet by name, but Reuters later revealed that they were the source of the questions. Among other things, the agency wanted to know whether Moscow agreed with the notion that the US was using sanctions to set Vladimir Putin’s supporters among major Russian businessmen against the President. “We are sure that this is the case,” Peskov said.
Another question read: “Do you think that these US efforts are timed to [affect] the presidential election in Russia?” The Kremlin press-secretary replied by saying: “We are convinced of this.”
A Reuters report on Thursday claimed that Russian business was worried about the threat of new US sanctions. The agency cited an unnamed top-manager of a Russian company who said that “people are on edge” in anticipation of the new sanction list to be put together by Washington in early 2018. “If they classify you as close to Putin, just try proving it’s not the case. The Americans’ tactics are clear: they need to cause pain in all ways possible for those who support Putin,” the source said.
However, Peskov said the Kremlin was “not aware” of any Russian business elite members who were angry with the Russian authorities over the US sanctions and blamed Putin for the situation.
Commenting on the agency’s claim that some Russian entrepreneurs were allegedly complaining that the Kremlin was ignoring the interests of the country’s business, while developing its relations with the West, Peskov said: “We’re not aware of such opinions and views. If they were voiced somewhere than we’re, obviously, always ready for discussions with the representatives of domestic business circles,” he added.
“If some media outlets are aware that some representatives of the business elite are making such statements, we would be grateful if they tell us, who they are,” Peskov laughed, quickly specifying that he was joking.
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The presidential election is scheduled to take place in Russia on March 18, 2018. Vladimir Putin is eligible to run for office for a second consecutive term, which would also become his fourth term overall. Putin hasn’t yet confirmed his intention to seek re-election.
The US introduced sanctions against Moscow in 2014 when the country re-united with Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine began. The restrictions have since expanded, to include individuals, companies and whole branches of the Russian economy.