Moscow is challenging the sanctions imposed on it by the United States and European Union for its involvement in the Ukraine crisis.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said Friday that Russia has sent a "communique" to the World Trade Organization declaring the sanctions violate international law and WTO regulations, and he promised a formal complaint will follow.
However, Medvedev said chances are slim that the Kremlin strategy will succeed because the United States has great influence at the WTO.
A spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative said the United States took its obligations under the WTO very seriously.
"Prior to instituting the sanctions against the Russian Federation, the United States carefully considered their consistency with WTO rules,'' he said.
Also Friday, the United States added seven pro-Russia separatist leaders to its list of individuals and organizations subject to sanctions over the rebellion in Ukraine, the Treasury Department announced.
The West imposed sanctions after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in March. Since then, the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations has considered strengthening the sanctions because of Russian actions seen as interference in Ukraine's internal affairs.
The sanctions – aimed at business leaders and companies close to Russian President Vladimir Putin – include travel bans against individuals and other prohibitions against companies considered to play a role in economic and political pressure on Ukraine. Some Russian firms have been barred from accessing their assets held in the West, and the global credit companies Visa and MasterCard have suspended relations with Russian banks.
Separatist leaders targeted
The individuals added to the sanctions list Friday include:
- Valery Bolotov, self-described governor of the separatist-controlled Luhansk region;
- Igor Girkin, so-called defense minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic;
- Valery Kaurov, an Odessa protest leader and "president of Novorossiya" or New Russia;
- Sergei Menyailo, a former Russian military officer and acting governor of Sevastopol, a port city in Crimea;
- Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, whose assorted titles include the former self-proclaimed "people’s mayor" of the town of Slovyansk;
- Andrey Purgin, a leader of the council running Donetsk’s separatist government;
- Denis Pushilin, a leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Economic analysts say the Western sanctions have driven Russia's economy to the brink of recession. Reuters reports the Russian government has begun to tap a multibillion-dollar welfare fund intended to finance a growing deficit in state-provided pensions. President Vladimir Putin previously last year that the "national welfare fund," built up from windfall oil revenues, would not be used for other purposes.