In response to the United States and European Union’s newest round of sanctions, Russians have stated that the U.S. is compromising the safety of its astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS). The move comes as 7 more Russian officials were placed on a U.S. sanctions list for Russia’s repeated violations to not deescalate by pulling back troops at the Ukrainian border. NATO has said that they have seen no evidence of movement of Russian troops off the border, a violation of an agreement made weeks ago between the West and Russia.
The European Union has imposed asset freezes and travel bans on 15 people including Russia’s deputy prime minister, the chief of staff of Russian armed forces and the head of the country’s military intelligence service.
Pro-Russian separatists in East Ukraine have also been targeted with sanctions, triggering threats over the fate of six Western military observers who are being held captive in the town of Slavyansk.
Amid continued EU divisions over sanctions after the US hit business oligarchs and companies close to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, Germany was embarrassed after Gerhard Schroeder, a former German chancellor, was photographed embracing the Russian president.
Legal problems and political division have ensured that the EU has steered clear of imposing sanctions on Russian businessman as European countries have continued to focus on officials and politicians regarded as directly responsible for destabilising Ukraine.
In a significant political move, General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian military general staff, has been added to the sanctions list for his responsibility “for the massive deployment of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine and lack of de-escalation of the situation”.
Following the announcement, Mr Rogozin said that fresh US sanctions against Moscow could compromise US astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
“If their aim is to deliver a blow to Russia’s rocket-building sector, then by default, they would be exposing their astronauts on the ISS,” the Interfax news agency quoted Mr Rogozin as saying in Crimea.
Nato said on Tuesday that it had seen no sign of Russian claims that tens of thousands of troops had withdrawn from close to Ukraine’s border to their permanent and established positions.
“We currently have no information that indicates a withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border. We continue to urge Russia to abide by the Geneva agreement and to pull back all its troops along the Ukrainian border in favour of diplomacy and dialogue,” a Nato official told Reuters.
The latest list, which takes the number of people targeted by European sanctions to 48, includes Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister who is charged by the EU with being “responsible for overseeing the integration of the annexed autonomous Republic of Crimea into the Russian Federation”.