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Germany raises business concerns over US-Russia sanctions

Germany says it will examine a new package of US sanctions against Russia approved by the House of Representatives amid concerns that the measures could affect European businesses.

Germany and Austria have criticised the planned penalties, saying they could affect European businesses involved in piping Russian natural gas.

German spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer said that Germany opposes in principle "sanctions with extraterritorial effects".

She added that it is important for the European Union and the US to continue closely coordinating sanctions against Russia and "in this light, we will examine in detail the bill that has now been approved".

German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the US is not entitled to tell European companies how to do business with a third country, but the legislation has improved from the original proposal.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin refrained from discussing its possible response to the sanctions.

Eager to punish Russia for meddling in the 2016 presidential election, the US Congress overwhelmingly backed a new package of sanctions against Moscow that prohibits President Donald Trump from waiving the penalties without first getting its permission.

Senior Russian officials and politicians said Russia was considering measures in response to the new round of sanctions, but Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said it was too early to speak about it.

Mr Peskov told reporters in Moscow that the new sanctions, which he described as "lamentable", have not been signed by Mr Trump into law yet and that the Kremlin "needs to analyse it very carefully" before Mr Putin makes a decision on how to respond.

When outgoing US president Barack Obama imposed new sanctions on Russia last December, including expelling dozens of Russian diplomats and seizing two Russian recreational estates, Mr Putin chose not to respond and said Russia would not expel US diplomats despite the overwhelming expectations.

Russian officials welcomed Mr Trump's presidential win last year, hoping to mend relations with the United States which reached a post-Cold War low under Mr Obama. But six months into Mr Trump's presidency ties between the two countries remain tense, and the much-anticipated first meeting between Mr Trump and Mr Putin early this month did not seem to produce any tangible results.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov criticised the sanctions as "closing off the prospect for normalising ties". He told the Interfax news agency the new sanctions are pushing Russia and the US "into uncharted territory both in political and diplomatic sense".

Several Russian politicians said Moscow is considering how to respond to the new sanctions that aim to hit Mr Putin and his inner circle by targeting alleged corrupt officials, human rights abusers, and crucial sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons sales and energy exports. The Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia's parliament, is already discussing the response, the chairman of its foreign affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev told reporters in Moscow.

Frants Klintsevich, first deputy chairman of the defence committee at the upper chamber of Russian parliament, warned that the new sanctions could hurt Russia's efforts to work with the US in fighting terrorism.

Cooperation on counter-terrorism between Russia and the US "will be extremely problematic if at all possible", Mr Klintsevich said in comments carried by Russian news agencies on Wednesday.

AP

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