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'Western sanctions testing Russia's strength'

The EU and US late last week imposed a fresh set of sanctions against Moscow for its policy on Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Picture: AFP.

MOSCOW - Russia's strength is being tested by sanctions imposed by the West and the country must react in a level-headed way, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told members of the country's ruling party, United Russia, on Monday.

"When a series of our partners, if they can be called that, test Russia's strength through sanctions and all kinds of threats, it is important not to succumb to the temptation of so-called easy solutions and to preserve and continue the development of democratic processes in our society, our state," Medvedev said in a televised speech.

The European Union and the United States imposed late last week a fresh set of sanctions against Moscow for its policy on Ukraine, further limiting access for some of Russia's key companies to foreign capital markets.

Meanwhile, fresh US and EU sanctions imposed on Moscow will bring an abrupt halt to exploration of Russia's huge Arctic and shale oil reserves and complicate financing of existing Russian projects from the Caspian Sea to Iraq and Ghana.

On Friday, the US imposed sanctions on Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Rosneft, banning Western firms from supporting their activities in exploration or production from deep water, Arctic offshore or shale projects.

The new measures, designed to put further pressure on President Vladimir Putin over Russia's actions in Ukraine, are a major broadening of the previous sanctions, which only banned the export of high technology oil equipment into Russia.

Projects now in jeopardy include a landmark drilling programme by US giant Exxon Mobil in the Russian Arctic that started in August as part of a joint venture with the Kremlin's oil champion Rosneft.

Now this and dozens of other projects that Rosneft and Gazprom Neft agreed with Exxon, Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, Norway's Statoil and Italian ENI will have to be put on hold.

The companies will have 14 days to wind-down activities.

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