Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev

Russia to the West: Get out of our space

RUSSIA has suggested that it may ban Western airlines from flying over its territory, in what it has called an "asymmetrical" response to new EU sanctions over the crisis in Ukraine.

Calling sanctions "stupid", Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blamed the West for damaging the Russian economy and said Moscow aimed to reduce the nation's reliance on imports - starting with increasing the output of domestic airliners.

Russia has been too patient amidst the worst confrontation with the West since the Cold War, and should have retaliated more strongly over attempts by the US and EU to punish Moscow for its role in Ukraine, Medvedev suggested.

He added Russia may decide to only allow the airlines of "friendly countries" to fly in its airspace.

"If there are sanctions related to the energy sector, or further restrictions on Russia's financial sector, we will have to respond asymmetrically," the Prime Minister told Russian daily Vedomosti.

Regarding commercial aircrafts flying in Russian airspace, he explained: "If Western carriers have to bypass our airspace, this could drive many struggling airlines into bankruptcy.

"This is not the way to go. We just hope our partners realise this at some point," he said in the interview published on Monday."

His comments came as the European Union said it would press ahead with implementing the new sanctions on Monday. The block had previously suggested it would hold off imposing the measures to give Moscow time to demonstrate it was resolving the conflict in Ukraine.

But a  fragile ceasefire agreed with Ukraine on Friday has done little to prove to the West that Russia is committed to resolving the crisis in the country's east which has killed more than 3,000 people.

Hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko agreed in a phone call that the truce was holding, shelling resumed near the port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov on Saturday.

The ceasefire was largely holding on Monday despite sporadic violations.

Top oil producers and pipeline operators Rosneft, Transneft and Gazprom Neft were on its list of state-owned firms that would not be allowed to raise capital or borrow on European markets, according to an EU diplomat.

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