Washington: Moscow has accused Washington of bringing back ‘‘Iron Curtain’’ policies in the fierce showdown over Ukraine.
The furious escalation in language from Russia underlined the Cold War echoes of the crisis as the US and Europe set in motion sanctions to hammer powerful Russian figures and companies close to President Vladimir Putin.
An outraged Kremlin vowed ‘‘painful’’ retaliation against Washington for the measures, despite earlier assuring the US it would not invade Ukraine after the sanctions were imposed.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had made the promise during a phone call with his American counterpart, Chuck Hagel. He also called on the US to tone down its rhetoric on the Ukraine crisis.
During the call, the Pentagon chief asked for Moscow’s help in securing the release of seven inspectors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe being held in eastern Ukraine.
Negotiations are still under way to secure the release of the observers, whose capture by rebels on Friday sparked global outrage.
The increasing geopolitical tensions were doing nothing to ease the situation on the ground in east Ukraine, where sporadic violence is unabated.
The United States had imposed additional sanctions against Russian government officials and companies deemed close to Mr Putin, accusing Moscow of failing to live up to its agreement to defuse the crisis.
The Obama administration ordered travel bans and asset freezes for seven Russian officials, including two said to be in Mr Putin's inner circle, and froze assets for 17 companies. Thirteen Russian companies will also face additional restrictions as the government will cut off the export or re-export of U.S.-made products to them.
Additionally, the State and Commerce departments announced a new policy to deny export licence applications for high-technology items that could contribute to Russia's military capabilities. The two departments will revoke existing export licences along those lines, a White House statement read. The European Union plans to follow with sanctions on 15 Russians, officials said.
Among those targeted on Monday was Igor Sechin, president of the state-owned Rosneft oil company and a longtime Putin adviser. Although administration officials said at the weekend that they also expected Alexei Miller, the head of the energy giant Gazprom, to possibly be targeted, US President Barack Obama ultimately chose a list that did not include him.
Others who face sanctions include Dmitry Kozak, a deputy prime minister; Vyacheslav Volodin, a deputy chief of staff to Putin; and Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the international affairs committee of the State Duma, the lower house of Parliament.
The firms targeted on Monday were all tied to Russian businessmen who were targeted in previous rounds of sanctions.
US officials said the European sanctions list would diverge from theirs, but the fact that both sides were moving on the same day signalled important unity.
"We don't expect there to be an immediate change in Russian policy," said a senior administration official. But he said the latest actions would signal that "much more severe economic pain" could still be imposed if Moscow did not back down.
The actions came shortly after Mr Obama, travelling in Asia, declared that Russia was continuing to bully and threaten Ukraine and would pay a price. The fact that the announcement was made on the last stop of his weeklong Asia trip underscored the sense of urgency about fears that Russia was destabilising eastern Ukraine.
"These sanctions represent the next stage in a calibrated effort to change Russia's behaviour," Mr Obama said in a news conference in the Philippines.
But Mr Obama acknowledged, "We don't yet know whether it is going to work," and left the door open to more sweeping sanctions against Russian industries like banking and defence.
"The goal is not to go after Mr Putin personally; the goal is to change his calculus, to encourage him to walk the walk, not just talk the talk" when it comes to diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, Mr Obama said.
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabko said Moscow would respond to the US actions, London’s Telegraph reported. ‘‘We are certain that this response will have a painful effect on Washington,’’ he told the Interfax news agency.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel had spoken by phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu who had ‘‘reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine’’.
The sanctions came as the mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was shot in an apparent assassination attempt.
Gennady Kernes was shot in the back by an unidentified gunman.
Anna Mikhaylova, an organiser for a Kharkiv cultural society, said she believed Russia was behind the shooting of the mayor, who had remained neutral in the dispute between Moscow and Kiev.
The Kiev Post reported that surgery on Mr Kernes was successful, but he was still in a critical condition on Monday afternoon.
New York Times, AFP