Putin Condemns U.S. 'Impudence' as Congress Pushes New Sanctions

By Thomas Grove Features Dow Jones Newswires

Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up his rhetoric against the U.S. Thursday, saying the Kremlin would no longer tolerate American "impudence" in advancing tough new sanctions on Moscow.

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During a trip to Finland, Mr. Putin said U.S. sanctions passed by the House of Representatives and expected to be approved by the Senate this week would force the Kremlin to respond.

"As you know, we have been very restrained, but at some point you have to respond," news agencies quoted him as saying. "It's impossible to endlessly tolerate impudence directed at your country."

The rare bipartisan vote in the House overwhelmingly passed a set of measures meant to punish Russia after the U.S. intelligence community concluded Moscow tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. The legislation also would prevent the president from easing sanctions without congressional approval.

President Donald Trump, who has spoken out against that portion of the bill, has expressed skepticism over the allegations of Russia's interference in last year's vote.

Moscow couldn't easily respond economically to the sanctions because of the relatively low volume of trade between the two countries, but Russia's pro-Kremlin press has speculated U.S. diplomats might be expelled.

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"When the response comes, what it will be, that will depend on what the final version of the law, which is being debated in the Senate, will look like," Mr. Putin said, Russian news agencies reported.

Russian officials had initially hoped for better relations with the U.S. under a Trump presidency, and Russia had been measured in its responses to Washington's steps to punish Moscow. When President Barack Obama expelled 35 diplomats in the wake of accusations that Russia had interfered in the presidential vote, Mr. Putin defied expectations and invited U.S. diplomats' children to Kremlin holiday festivities.

But Mr. Putin's sharper rhetoric Thursday showed Moscow's rising frustration with the Trump administration. Investigations into alleged links between the Trump campaign and Russia have tied the U.S. president's hands in terms of trying to change policy with Moscow, Russian officials say.

Mr. Putin's statement Thursday also broke from the Kremlin's more dismissive statements about the effect of sanctions enacted after the Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Those sanctions, together with the fall in the oil price in late 2014, plunged Russia's economy into a recession.

New sanctions could cloud Russia's economic outlook just as the economy is showing growth potential for the first time in three years. New measures on Russian pipeline projects could be most damaging, analysts say.

"We see substantial scope for Russia's risk profile to deteriorate further in the coming quarters," said London-based economic and industry analysis group BMI Research in a note, adding the sanctions could affect big export pipeline projects such as Russia's NordStream 2.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 27, 2017 15:40 ET (19:40 GMT)