Russia, battered by the falling price of oil, its chief export, and a tumbling ruble, lashed out against the U.S. and EU for new sanctions that President Vladimir Putin says already account for “25 to 30 percent” of his country’s eroding currency.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman says today that the Kremlin will not “cave in” to pressure from the West over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, calling sanctions “collective punishment” on residents of the Black Sea peninsula, who voted in March to join Russia.
President Obama on Friday authorized fresh sanctions that prohibit any new American investment, financing or trade with Crimea. The U.S. move comes a day after similar sanctions were slapped on Russia by the European Union.
“Introducing new unilateral sanctions against the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sebastopol by the USA and European Union is direct evidence that the West has acknowledged that the decision by the Crimeans to rejoin Russia was unanimous and voluntary,” the Russian ministry said in a statement.
“That’s why they chose the ‘punishment’ to be collective,” it added. “It is sad that the countries which call themselves democratic resort to such methods in the 21st century.”
Oil prices have dropped below $60 a barrel from about $115 earlier this year, representing a huge loss in revenue for Moscow, which relies heavily on its petroleum exports.
Last week, Russia’s central bank boosted its interest rate to a whopping 17 percent from 10.5 percent in a move to stabilize the ruble’s precipitous slide in recent weeks. At one point last week, the Russian currency had lost 19 percent of its value in a single day.
Even so, NPR’s Corey Flintoff, reporting from Moscow earlier this week, said “some people are trying to convert their money into dollars and euros. But of course, that already amounts to a big loss for them. There doesn’t seem to be anything like a panic yet.
“Most people that I did talk with said they’re kind of resigned to waiting it out and seeing what happens,” Corey says.