Trump to withdraw US aid to Russia as sanctions hit

The US President Donald Trump has decided to pull $400m (£273m) in aid to the Russian government in response to the new sanctions against Russia, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Thursday.

The announcement comes as the US moves to isolate Russia over the annexation of Crimea.

Russia has already accused the US of acting “like a criminal”.

It says the sanctions are intended to harm US-Russian relations.

“We’re going to be announcing today that the US is withdrawing a $400 million grant to the Kremlin that has been a cornerstone of our partnership,” Ms Sanders said.

“And we will be taking the opportunity to work with Russia to address some of the concerns that have been raised with respect to the actions of the United States,” she said.

The US has already cut some aid to Moscow as part of the sanctions, which were imposed last month, as part in a broader effort to isolate Moscow over its actions in Crimea.

“In response to recent actions by the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and France, the President has decided that the United State will no longer provide any financial assistance to the Government of Russia until these countries rescind their prior actions that have threatened to undermine US-Russia relations,” Ms Huckabee Sanders added.

The new sanctions were imposed on December 31 by US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Russia responded by suspending some trade and financial transactions with the US.

“The US has decided it is not in the best interests of the American people and of the world to continue to be associated with the Russian Federation, which is a major partner in the fight against the scourge of the Ebola virus,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.

“I urge all our colleagues to remember this fundamental principle: Russia will never support or support actions that threaten our own security.”

Ms Huckabee-Sanders said the decision to withdraw aid was made because of the impact of the new measures on US-Moscow relations.

It is the first time that the two countries have taken such a step in response the sanctions.

“That decision was taken in response, as you can imagine, to the US decision to impose sanctions against us, including against Russian and Chinese companies, as well as individuals, as the sanctions took effect,” Ms Fiorina said.

But the US has said that it is taking its sanctions “very seriously”, and has warned that further sanctions will be taken if Russia continues to violate the new law.

“There are other countries in the world that are looking to take action against Russia as well, so the fact that we’re not in this conversation right now is because of this very important decision by the US President to make the decision that we made yesterday,” Mr Trump said on Twitter on December 30.

“Russia has to reverse this and get along with the world.”

The sanctions were first put in place by President Barack Obamas predecessor, President George W Bush, following the annexation by Russia of Crimea in 2014.

Russia says it seized the Ukrainian peninsula as part the country’s bid to gain control of the Black Sea, but Ukraine has rejected the claim and says the peninsula was occupied by Russia until its surrender in 2014 following the Russian invasion.

Mr Trump has said Russia was a “major and growing contributor” to the Syrian civil war and the Ukrainian crisis.

He has also said the US should withdraw from the Paris climate change accord, saying he was not willing to go through the legal wrangling that would be required to do so.

US officials have also warned that the new moves could trigger a new round of sanctions by the European Union, which has been under pressure from Washington to take steps to punish Russia for its role in the crisis.

“These sanctions have put the US on the defensive in the global arena, and they will continue to have an impact on our relationships with many nations, particularly the Russian-speaking world,” Mr Sanders said in response.

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