US says it regrets Russia canceled diplomat meeting over expanded sanctions

US says it regrets Russia canceled diplomat meeting over expanded sanctions

By Loree Lewis   
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands before their bilateral meeting at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on May 10, 2017. (Photo: U.S. State Department)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that it regrets Russia’s decision to cancel high-level diplomatic talks planned for this week in St. Petersburg in the wake of expanded U.S. sanctions against Russian entities, but remains open to future talks about the “many issues” between the two countries.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced Tuesday, as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited Washington, that it had added 38 additional Russian individuals and entities to the list of those sanctioned for Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine.

In making the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. will maintain the sanctions until Russia meets its obligations under the the Minsk agreements, a 2015 cease-fire agreement between Ukraine and Russia.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert defended the sanctions in a statement, saying they only reinforced existing sanctions and were “designed to counter attempts to circumvent our sanctions and to maintain alignment of U.S. measures with those of our international partner.” She noted that the U.S. has updated the sanctions twice a year since they were first imposed under the Barack Obama administration.

“Let’s remember that these sanctions didn’t just come out of nowhere,” Nauer said. “Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor, Ukraine.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon were slated to meet in St. Petersburg. The State Department said the talks were part of continued discussions that began in May when Shannon met Deputy Foreign Minister Ryabkov in New York.

Ryabkov, in a Wednesday statement posted to the Russian Foreign Ministry website, called the sanctions “a continuation of the trend set by the Obama administration aimed at ruining relations between our countries.”

“After yesterday’s decision on sanctions, the situation does not allow for a round of such a dialogue, especially as there is no content for it, since Washington didn’t offer nor is offering now anything specific,” Ryabkov said, adding that there will be “practical retaliatory measures.”

Ryabkov said that previous U.S. “sanctions haven’t achieved the result which their initiators had hoped for” and that “any new attempts to make Russia ‘bow down’ will be just as futile.”

Following meetings with President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Poroshenko likened Trump to the late President Ronald Reagan when expressing confidence that he will bring peace to Ukraine.

“The real leader, the charismatic person can bring peace to my land, the same way Reagan [brought] victory in [the] Cold War without one single shot,” Poroshenko said on Fox News.

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