Russia will retaliate against a new round of Western sanctions over Ukraine and may block flights through its airspace, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview published on Monday.
Medvedev also suggested that Western sanctions would not make the Kremlin change its course, adding that Russians — like the Chinese — would simply pull together in the face of new punitive measures.
The European Union is expected on Monday to consider new sanctions against Russia, in a further blow to the country’s ailing economy already teetering on the brink of recession.
Brussels said it was ready to review the need for new sanctions if a truce agreed between Kremlin-backed rebels and Kiev forces holds in eastern Ukraine.
“I was hoping that our partners would be smarter. Alas …” Medvedev, who served a four-year stint as president before ceding the Kremlin to his mentor Vladimir Putin in 2012, told the liberal business daily Vedomosti.
“If there are sanctions related to energy, further limits for our financial sector we will have to respond asymmetrically,” he said, adding that Russia may target flights over Russia.
“We proceed from the fact that we have friendly relations with our partners and that is why the sky over Russia is open for flights. But if they put limits on us we will have to respond.”
Medvedev said that the ban could mean that “many airlines” would go bankrupt. “But that is a bad story. We just want our partners to realise it at some point,” he said.
“Sanctions certainly don’t help bring peace in Ukraine. They hit wide off the mark and an absolute majority of politicians realise that,” he said. blaming forces who he said want to “use force” in international relations.
The Russian government first said in August it was considering banning the use of Russian airspace for European airlines, the so-called overflight rights needed to take the shortest route between Europe and Asia.
US airlines have not been allowed to use Siberian airspace for years and have been pushing the Russian government to review its policy.
Medvedev said that a spiral of sanctions could lead to a breach in international security.
“I hope that our Western partners don’t want this and there are no mad people among those who make decisions.”
Medvedev also drew parallels between Russia and China which was targeted by what he said were similar Western sanctions over the crackdown by Chinese authorities on student protesters in 1989.
“Now let’s take a look. Did the development of the Chinese economy become worse? No,” he said.
“Did China feel punished? No. They simply mobilised internal resources.”
“To a certain degree these sanctions were beneficial to China.”