Medvedev shrugs off Western sanctions

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Picture:AFP.
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MOSCOW - Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has  shrugged off sanctions over Moscow's annexation of Crimea, saying even if the West imposes more punitive measures, companies that want to work in Russia will not be deterred.

"Everything will be fine," Medvedev was quoted as saying when asked how cooperation with foreign oil and gas companies would be affected if Western nations broaden sanctions against Russia.

"Those who want to work with us in any area, whether it is science, production, investment in our economy - they aren't going anywhere, because this is a completely normal process.”

If companies do pull out, he said, "it means they didn't really want" to work in Russia in the first place.

The United States and European Union have slapped visa bans and asset freezes on a few dozen Russian officials and lawmakers as punishment for what they say is Moscow's illegal seizure of Ukraine's Crimea region on the Black Sea.

They are threatening to impose much wider sanctions, potentially affecting whole economic sectors, if Russia seeks to take more Ukrainian territory or makes other aggressive moves.

RUSSIA AND WEST DRAW TENTATIVE LINE

Russia and the West drew a tentative line under the Ukraine crisis on Tuesday after US President Barack Obama and his allies agreed to hold off on more damaging economic sanctions unless Moscow goes beyond the seizure of Crimea.

Describing Russia as a "regional power" and not the biggest national security threat to the United States, Obama said Russian forces would not be removed militarily from Crimea, but the annexation of the Black Sea region was not a "done deal" because the international community would not recognise it.

"It is up to Russia to act responsibly and show itself once again to be willing to abide by international norms and if it fails to do so, there will be some costs.”

After scoffing at a decision by Obama and his Western allies to boycott a planned Group of Eight summit in Sochi in June and hold a G7 summit without Russia instead, the Kremlin said it was keen to maintain contact with G8 partners.

"The Russian side continues to be ready to have such contacts at all levels, including the top level. We are interested in such contacts," said President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

Obama said he was concerned at the possibility of further Russian "encroachment" into Ukraine and believed Putin was still "making a series of calculations". 

He urged Putin to let Ukrainians choose their own destiny free from intimidation, saying he was sure they would opt for good relations with both the European Union and Moscow rather than making a zero-sum choice for one against the other.

"Russia is a regional power that is threatening some of its immediate neighbours, not out of strength but out of weakness. We (the United States) have considerable influence on our neighbours. We generally don't need to invade them in order to have a strong cooperative relationship with them."