MOSCOW: A defiant Russia said on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) that Western sanctions over Ukraine would backfire on the United States and lead to energy price hikes in Europe, after Brussels and Washington unveiled the toughest punitive measures against Moscow since the Cold War.
Russia’s response came as the Ukrainian military pushed on with its offensive against pro-Russian rebels in the east, retaking the town of Avdiyivka, only a dozen kilometers (eight miles) from the main rebel city of Donetsk.
The Russian foreign ministry warned the United States it was shooting itself in the foot and said it was punishing the Kremlin for “independent policies that Washington finds inconvenient.”
Moscow also warned that European consumers would bear the brunt of sanctions targeting Russia’s vital energy, arms and finance sectors.
“This is a thoughtless, irresponsible step. It will inevitably lead to an increase in prices on the European energy market,” the foreign ministry said.
Moscow also dismissed claims it was responsible for supplying the missile that downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Meanwhile, the fighting between Kiev forces and rebels prevented a Dutch and Australian police contingent from visiting the crash site for the fourth day running.
The head of the Dutch recovery mission said it was unlikely the security situation would improve enough “over the next few days” to reach the site, where the remains of some of the 298 victims still lie nearly two weeks on.
“There is still too much fighting in the area,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told reporters in Kiev.
One Ukrainian soldier was killed and 11 wounded over the past 24 hours, according to authorities.
Later on Wednesday, the European Union (EU) piled on asset freezes and travel bans against eight individuals including two close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin who are leading shareholders in Rossiya Bank, which caters to senior Russian officials.