Russia charges US with reviving Iron Curtain with sanctions over Ukraine
Russia charges US with reviving Iron Curtain policies with sanctions as the talks to free seven European inspectors continue amid new violence
Moscow yesterday accused Washington of bringing back "Iron Curtain" policies in the fierce showdown over Ukraine, while the West revealed its new sanctions included measures against Russia's military chief.
The escalation in language from Russia underlined the cold war echoes of the crisis as the US and Europe set in motion sanctions to hammer Russian figures and firms close to President Vladimir Putin.
The geopolitical tensions fuelled unrest on the ground in east Ukraine, where sporadic violence was unabated and talks to free seven European inspectors held by rebels continued. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov tore into the United States for leading the sanctions charge on Monday, especially for its decision to curb hi-tech exports to Russia that could have military uses.
"All of that is a blow to our high-tech enterprises and industries," Ryabkov told online newspaper Gazeta.ru
"This is a revival of a system created in 1949 when Western countries essentially lowered an 'Iron Curtain', cutting off supplies of high-tech goods to the USSR and other countries."
The European Union revealed that General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of Russia's armed forces and the country's deputy defence minister, was one of 15 Russians and Ukrainians targeted by an asset freeze and travel ban in the bloc's latest blacklist.
Russia's foreign ministry responded by saying the European bloc was "doing Washington's bidding".
The White House on Monday slapped sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies close to Putin, while Canada added nine names and two banks, and Japan said it was denying visas to 23 Russians it has targeted
The Kremlin has vowed "painful" retaliation against Washington for the measures.
There was no sign the sanctions were having any immediate effect on getting Russia to use its influence to defuse the crisis in Ukraine. On Monday, the mayor in east Ukraine's biggest city of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, was shot in the back by an unknown gunman, leaving him in a critical condition. Kernes, who is Jewish, was flown yesterday to Israel for medical treatment, the mayor's spokesman said.
Fourteen people were also seriously hurt on Monday when pro-Moscow militants wielding bricks, bats and knives attacked them as they marched for Ukrainian unity in the city of Donetsk.
Kalashnikov-toting militants the same day seized the town hall of Kostyantynivka - the latest of more than a dozen towns held by pro-Russian rebels. Russia, which has massed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine, has repeatedly said it has no plans to invade the ex-Soviet republic.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu repeated that assurance in a telephone conversation with his US counterpart Chuck Hagel, the Pentagon said.
Shoigu again denied US accusations that covert Russian forces were already deployed in Ukraine to sow unrest and urged Washington to tone down its rhetoric on the crisis.
Hagel in turn called for an end to Russia's "destabilising influence" inside Ukraine and warned that continued aggression would result in more diplomatic and economic pressure.
The US defence secretary also asked for Moscow's help in securing the release of the seven inspectors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held by pro-Russian militants in Slavyansk.
The OSCE has been negotiating for several days to free the seven Europeans, who were seized on Friday along with a Swede, who was released on Sunday because he suffers from diabetes.