Moscow fights back after sanctions; battle rages near Ukraine crash site

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  • New EU and US sanctions restrict sales of arms and of equipment for the oil industry, while Russian state banks are barred from raising money in Western capital markets
  • Moscow says new EU and US sanctions ‘destructive and short-sighted’

Russia fought back on Wednesday over new US and EU sanctions imposed over Ukraine even as G7 leaders warned of further steps, while Ukraine’s government accused pro-Russian rebels of placing land mines near the site of a crashed Malaysian airliner to prevent a proper investigation.

Russia announced a ban on most fruit and vegetable imports from Poland and said it could extend it to the entire European Union, a move Warsaw called Kremlin retaliation for new Western sanctions over Ukraine imposed on Russia on Tuesday.

Moscow called the new EU and US sanctions “destructive and short-sighted” and said they would lead to higher energy prices in Europe and damage cooperation with the United States on international affairs.

The confrontation between Russia and the West entered a new phase this week, with the United States and European Union taking by far the strongest international steps yet against Moscow over its support for Ukraine’s rebels.

The new EU and US sanctions restrict sales of arms and of equipment for the oil industry, while Russian state banks are barred from raising money in Western capital markets.

G7 leaders issued a joint statement on Wednesday warning Russia that it would face added economic sanctions if Moscow does not change course on its Ukraine policy.

The statement from the leaders of the G7 countries – the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Britain – was a show of solidarity among allies. They expressed grave concern about Russian actions that have undermined “Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”

“Russia still has the opportunity to choose the path of de-escalation,” the statement said. “If it does not do so, however, we remain ready to further intensify the costs of its adverse actions.”

FIGHTING NEAR THE CRASH SITE

On the ground in Ukraine, heavy fighting between government forces and separatists has been taking place near the site where Malaysian flight MH17 crashed into wheat and sunflower fields on July 17, shot down by what Washington and Brussels say was a missile supplied by Russia.

Kiev accused the pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday of fortifying the area, including with land mines, to prevent the site from being properly investigated. The land mine report could not be independently confirmed. Ukraine is party to a treaty banning land mines; Russia is not.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the rebels were digging in for battle near the crash site: “They have brought a large number of heavy artillery there and mined approaches to this area. This makes impossible the work of international experts trying to start work to establish the reasons behind the Boeing 777 crash.”

The G7 leaders called on all sides to establish a ceasefire at the crash site.

The new Western sanctions mark the first time Washington and Brussels have adopted measures designed to hurt the overall Russian economy, after weeks of narrow steps targeting only specific individuals blamed for Russia’s Ukraine policy.