New U.S. Sanctions Could Influence Russia’s Domestic Affairs, Official Says

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Saturday that a new round of U.S. sanctions expected against Moscow is an attempt to influence Russia’s domestic affairs ahead of this year’s presidential elections, Reuters reported.

As part of a long-standing rift in which Washington accuses Moscow of alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential vote, the U.S. is expected to impose fresh penalties against Russia as soon as early February. Russia has repeatedly denied interference in the elections.

In August, U.S. President Donald Trump signed into law a new package of sanctions drafted by U.S. lawmakers. The new legislation also limits Trump’s own ability to lift any sanctions against Russia.

Moscow now expects the United States to present two anti-Russian reports with the new sanctions, Ryabkov told Tass news agency.

One of the reports will likely extend the number of Russian officials and companies on the sanctions list, while the other will analyze whether sanctions so far have proved to be effective, Ryabkov said.

“We see this as yet another attempt to influence our internal situation, especially ahead of the presidential election,” he said.

Russia will hold its next presidential vote on March 18 when President Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win another six-year stint.

The first U.S. sanctions against Russia were imposed in 2014 for its role in the Ukrainian crisis and for annexing Crimea. The European Union has also imposed penalties against Moscow, prompting it to retaliate with banning food imports from countries that sanction Russia.

The new round of U.S. sanctions could possibly include a ban on the purchase of Russian treasury bonds, according to Reuters.