WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department has expressed "regret" about a Kremlin decision to cancel a meeting between U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.
Ryabkov on June 21 said in a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry that the cancellation was Moscow's response to a new round of U.S. sanctions against Russia announced by Washington on June 20.
The expanded U.S. sanctions over Russia's activities in Ukraine target 38 Russian individuals and companies.
Ryabkov said on June 21 that "the situation is not conducive to holding a round of this dialogue" scheduled for June 23 in St. Petersburg, Russia.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said after Ryabkov's announcement that Russia had "decided to turn away from an opportunity to discuss bilateral obstacles that hinder U.S.-Russia relations."
"Let’s remember that these sanctions didn't just come out of nowhere," Nauert said. "Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia's ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor, Ukraine."
Nauert said that, if Moscow really wants to bring an end to the sanctions, the Kremlin knows "very well" what it must do.
"Our sanctions on Russia related to Russia's ongoing aggression against Ukraine will remain in place until Russia fully honors its obligations under the Minsk Agreements" on the Ukrainian conflict, Nauert said.
"Our sanctions related to Crimea will not be lifted until Russia ends its occupation of the peninsula," she said.
The talks between Shannon and Ryabkov on June 23 were to be the latest meeting of a senior-level working group that began meeting in May to discuss bilateral issues of concern.
Nauert said the "maintenance package of sanctions" issued on June 20 by the U.S. Treasury Department was only reinforcing existing sanctions.
She said they were "designed to counter attempts to circumvent our sanctions and to maintain alignment of U.S. measures with those of our international partners."
She also noted that Washington has regularly updated the sanctions twice a year since they were first imposed in 2014.
Earlier on June 21, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the latest sanctions were not constructive and that “various options are being considered” in possible retaliation.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on June 8 that the Shannon-Ryabkov talks were meant to focus on "irritants" in diplomatic relations between Moscow and Washington.
Russia-U.S. relations are tense, even as the White House considers a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting in July.
Peskov said on June 21 that such a meeting was still possible, but preparations have not yet been made.
Nauert said on June 21 that Washington remains "open to future discussions."
With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, TASS, Interfax, and RIA Novosti