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Russia mulling sanctions against West

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Moscow is preparing a bill that would freeze the assets of European and American companies operating in Russia in response to potential Western sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine’s Republic of Crimea.

A group of Russian lawmakers, including Senator Andrey Klishas, the chairman of the Russian parliament’s upper house committee for constitutional law, are working on plans to respond in kind to the US sanctions as well as potential bans by other Western countries.

Klishas said Moscow must have sufficient leverage to respond to the threats of sanctions coming from foreign countries.

Russia has become embroiled in a standoff with the United States and its allies over Ukraine’s autonomous territory of Crimea, where a large majority of ethnic Russians reside and where Russia has a naval base.

Washington has imposed visa restrictions on Russians, ordered sanctions on individuals it says have been involved in the Russian military intervention in Ukraine, and condemned the proposed referendum in Crimea to break away from Ukraine and join Russia.

In addition, the European Union has suspended visa and investment talks with Russia over the same issue and threatened sanctions if no diplomatic progress is made.

This is while lawmakers in Crimea unanimously declared that they want Crimea to join Russia and would put the decision to a referendum on March 16.

The new pro-EU government in Kiev, however, has declared the planned vote illegal, and Ukraine’s interim Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has said that Crimea has been and will remain an integral part of Ukraine.

First Deputy Prime Minister of Crimea Rustam Temirgaliev has on the other hand said that the region is already part of Russia, and the vote is only needed to stamp this.

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