Russian Federation calls fresh U.S. sanctions "illegal"

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Russian Federation condemned a new round of USA sanctions as illegal on Thursday and said it had begun working on retaliatory measures after news of the curbs pushed the rouble to two-year lows over fears Moscow was locked in a spiral of never-ending sanctions.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said this afternoon that Moscow was starting to work on measures following Washington's decision to impose sanctions, which she claimed were using the Salisbury attacks in March as a pretext.

Russia is already under USA sanctions for its 2014 invasion of Crimea, and the Trump administration expelled 60 Russians from the US and shuttered the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to the failed assassination attempt.

It shed as much as 5% versus the dollar after the the State Department said it would impose new sanctions against Moscow for the March poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The Kremlin responded by describing the sanctions as illegal and unfriendly and adding that the USA move was at odds with the "constructive atmosphere" of Mr Trump and Mr Putin's meeting in Helsinki last month.

The prime minister said that by targeting Russia's gas exports to Europe, Washington wants to push its own LNG shipments to the continent. He added that the new sanctions amount to "inflicting a punishment in the absence of a crime in the tradition of lynch law".

According to the law, it could include downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending national flag carrier Aeroflot's ability to fly to the United States and cutting off almost all exports and imports.

"In both these cases, the deadlines were not met-it's more the norm for us to be late", the official said.

The latest USA action follows the Treasury's imposition of sanctions in March against 19 Russian citizens and five entities for interfering in the 2016 United States election - the toughest steps against Moscow since Trump took office.

Turbulence in the oil market is also putting pressure on the currency, analysts said.

"The trading range of the upcoming week is seen at 64.25-67.50 roubles", analysts at Alfa bank said, referring to the dollar-ruble pair.

In response to the USA announcement, the Russian Embassy in the United States issued a statement referring to "far-fetched accusations" and saying Russian officials had yet to hear any facts or evidence and that the U.S. had refused to answer questions.

Analysts in Moscow said it was highly unlikely that Putin would allow inspectors to enter the country to head off the additional sanctions, since doing so would look like succumbing to USA pressure.

"Once again we deny in the strongest terms the accusations about the possible connection of the Russian state to what happened in Salisbury".

Almost five months after Russia's nerve-agent attack on British soil, Washington this week finally came up with a meaningful response: major new sanctions on Vladimir Putin's regime.

Faced with a new round of US -sanctions over alleged chemical weapons use, Russia denounced the move as an "illegal" gesture that defied attempts by President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin aimed at improving relations during a recent summit.

Even as rumors of impending new sanctions swirled in the media, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul - a supporter of Trump's efforts to engage Russia - announced he had delivered a letter from President Trump to Putin during meetings with Russian officials in Moscow earlier this week.

"Sanctions are the U.S. weapon of choice", Trenin wrote on Twitter.

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