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Britain: New Russian Travel Ban Shows Western Sanctions Working

FILE - Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind speaks to the media in Westminster, London, Feb. 24, 2015.

Former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind says Russia's entry ban on 89 European politicians and military leaders shows Western sanctions imposed on Moscow for its March 2014 annexation of the Crimean peninsula are working.

Rifkind told British radio Sunday that Russian officials "would not have reacted unless they felt very sore at what happened."

Rifkind spoke a day after the European Union issued a statement saying it considers the new ban, which was disclosed last week, as "totally arbitrary and unjustified in the absence of further clarification."

The Russian list includes scores of European lawmakers and heads of government who last year backed several waves of European and U.S. sanctions aimed at penalizing Moscow for its role in the ongoing Ukraine crisis.

Beyond travel bans on top Russian officials and businesspeople, U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders slapped harsh economic sanctions on Russia's biggest financial institution, Sherbank, last September.

The Western leaders also blocked Russian energy companies from access to Western technologies used in deep water shale oil extraction.

Those sanctions, coupled with a sharp decline late last year in Russian oil exports and the free fall of the Russian ruble, pushed the Russian economy to the brink of recession earlier this year. Analysts expect the economy to contract more than 4 percent by year's end.

Moscow has strongly protested the Western penalties, while repeatedly insisting it is not playing an active role in the pro-Russian rebellion gripping eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has described Russian troops seen or captured inside Ukraine as volunteers.

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