Russia to Soften Plan for Retaliation Against U.S. Sanctions

(Bloomberg) -- Russia’s parliament plans to adopt a bill on counter-measures to U.S. and European Union sanctions this month after softening the initial draft to remove language that had targeted specific sectors and products ranging from medication to aerospace.

The bill will pass the first reading in the legislature next week and will then be amended before the second reading to exclude specifics, Alexander Zhukov, deputy speaker of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, told reporters after lawmakers met with experts on the issue. The law will be aimed at “countering damage to Russian citizens and the Russian economy,” Zhukov said. Separately, parliament will appeal to the government to include aid to companies hit by U.S. sanctions in the three-year budget plan.

Legislators also plan to pass measures by the end of the month imposing criminal penalties including prison terms up to four years for complying with foreign sanctions by refusing to do transactions with affected Russian individuals, companies or the state, Tass reported, citing an unidentified person in the parliament. The proposal would also make it a crime for Russian citizens to advise foreign governments on imposing or targeting sanctions.

The initial draft of the counter-sanctions law was released shortly after the U.S. imposed restrictions on major Russian companies and business tycoons on April 6, sending the ruble into a slide. The parliament’s plan called for restricting imports of American farm, pharmaceutical and technology products, as well as Russian cooperation with the U.S. in aviation, space and nuclear energy. It also allowed hikes in fees for flights over Russia, restrictions on visas for U.S. professionals and violations of U.S.-owned trademarks.

But the Kremlin put the brakes on the plan, hoping to prevent another round of escalation in tensions with the U.S.

The bill also drew public criticism, raising fears that it may harm domestic producers and ordinary citizens, especially from a ban on pharmaceutical imports.

“We need to be able to choose the right retaliation that would be most beneficial to the Russian economy and wouldn’t harm the well-being or health of citizens,” Sergei Zhigarev, head of the Duma’s economic policy committee, told reporters.

The lawmakers have also agreed to drop a proposal to limit U.S. workers in Russia, Yaroslav Kuzminov, rector of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, told reporters.

“In this war of sanctions, we are not fighting the American people or the people of the European Union,” he said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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