Russian President Vladimir Putin has lashed out at U.S. attempts to impose stricter sanctions on Moscow, saying his country was ready to “retaliate” if Washington moved ahead with the plan being put forward by Congress.
Putin, speaking at a news conference on July 27 during a visit to Finland, said Russia was "exercising restraint and patience but, at some moment, we'll have to retaliate."
“It's impossible to endlessly tolerate this boorishness toward our country," Putin told reporters.
Putin’s comments came after Republicans in the U.S. Congress said on July 26 they had reached agreement on a bill that would impose new sanctions on Moscow and would prevent President Donald Trump from easing punitive measures without congressional approval.
The bill has wide bipartisan support in the House and Senate. It would require Trump’s signature, but a veto by the president could theoretically be overridden by Congress.
The U.S. administration has sent conflicting signals as to whether Trump would sign the bill. The president has said he opposes moves that would tie his hands in dealing with Russia and his ability to adjust sanctions should conditions require it.
White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci on July 27 said Trump "may sign the sanctions exactly the way they are, or he may veto the sanctions and negotiate an even tougher deal against the Russians."
Trump's presidency has been clouded by allegations that Russia meddled in the election on his behalf.
The Justice Department and Congress are conducting separate investigations into Moscow's alleged interference and whether there was any collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia, which denies the allegations.
It was not immediately clear when the new legislation, which also includes sanctions against North Korea and Iran, would be formally approved by both houses of Congress and sent to Trump, as some politicians said it still required fine-tuning.
The bill would introduce new financial sanctions and enshrine into law a series of sanctions imposed by former President Barack Obama over Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aggression in Ukraine, where Moscow seized the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backs separatists in a war that has killed more than 10,000 people in the country's east.
In anticipation of its passage, Putin intensified his complaints about the U.S. move, threatening retaliation without being specific.
"When will our response follow? What will it be? That will depend on the final version of the draft law which is now being debated in the U.S. Senate," he said in Finland.
He also referred to the ongoing diplomatic dispute between Moscow and Washington that began in December when Obama ordered the seizure of Russian diplomatic property in the United States and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.
"This goes beyond all reasonable bounds," Putin said. "And now these sanctions -- they are also absolutely unlawful from the point of view of international law."
"It's very sad that U.S.-Russian relations are being sacrificed to resolve internal policy issues in the U.S.," the Russian president said.
"It's a pity, because acting together we could be solving jointly the most acute problems that worry the peoples of Russia and the United States much more efficiently," he added.
Putin said, though, that Russia had "many friends" in the United States and that he hoped disputes between the two countries would eventually be solved.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, Politico, dpa, and New York Times