MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday imposed entry bans on nine US lawmakers and officials in response to Washington’s sanctions over Crimea, the first retaliatory strike by Moscow.
The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday released the list that includes House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
It also names Ben Rhodes, a deputy US national security adviser along with other White House advisers, Caroline Atkinson and Dan Pfeiffer, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., Mary Landrieu, D-La. and Dan Coats, R-Ind.
The Russian Foreign Ministry misspelled Reid’s name as Reed.
The move came minutes after President Barack Obama introduced a new round of US sanctions, including some senior Kremlin officials and lawmakers along with businessmen close to President Vladimir Putin.
“There should be no doubt, we will respond in kind to any hostile action,” the Foreign Ministry said. “We have warned repeatedly that the use of sanctions is a double-edged sword that will boomerang against the United States.”
Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that he was deeply concerned over the crisis in Ukraine, which saw Moscow absorb the ex-Soviet country’s peninsula of Crimea into Russian territory.
“I cannot hide but to tell you that I am deeply concerned about the current situation,” Ban said at the start of talks in the Kremlin.
“It is a great honor for me to visit Moscow so soon after my last visit to Sochi,” he added, referring to his visit to the Winter Olympic Games last month.
The UN chief added that he also held talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier Thursday.
Pro-Russian crowds seized two Ukrainian warships and Ukraine said its troops were being threatened in Crimea as the European Union considered new sanctions against Russia for its annexation of the Black Sea peninsula.
Tensions in the region remained high despite the release of a Ukrainian naval commander held by pro-Russian forces. Shots were fired but there were no casualties as the Ukrainian corvette Khmelnitsky was seized in Sevastopol, according to an AP photographer at the scene. Another ship, the Lutsk, was also surrounded by pro-Russian forces. The Defense Ministry had no immediate information on the incidents.
Meanwhile, Russia’s lower house of Parliament ratified in a rubber stamp vote the treaty incorporating Crimea into Russian territory.
Also on Thursday, French President Francois Hollande said Europe’s leaders would cancel a June summit with Russia and decide fresh sanctions against Russian figures as he arrived for a European Union summit.
“Sanctions will be decided as well as a suspension of political ties,” Hollande said, referring to a planned EU-Russia summit in June.
“We must also plan other sanctions if there is an escalation.”
France also resisted pressure to suspend the controversial sale of two Mistral warships to Russia over the Crimea crisis, insisting it would not make any decision before October.
“The delivery of the first boat is due in October, so the question of a suspension will arise in October,” Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
A US scientific group, National Geographic Society, meanwhile said that Crimea would literally become a gray area if it is formally annexed by Russia, adding that
its mapping policy “is to portray the current reality.”