West accused of ‘piracy’
Western nations wanted to destroy the Russian economy with sanctions, some of which are in essence nothing short of outright piracy, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin warned on Thursday, as he delivered his yearly government performance report to parliament.
“Unfriendly nations found no better way than to return to the typical pirate practice, if we call a spade a spade. By freezing our assets, they de facto robbed the country,” the prime minister said.
Mishustin was referring to the decision to freeze Russian foreign reserves denominated in dollars and euros, which amounted to about $300 billion.
According to White House statements, the US is trying to force Russia to default on its sovereign debt, having banned Moscow earlier this week from using funds under American jurisdiction to make payments on its loans. Officials said the Kremlin will now have to “choose between draining its available funds to make debt payments or default.”
Russia reportedly paid interest on its debt in rubles this week. It also announced that it would require buyers of its natural gas to make payments to a Russian bank, which will then exchange the money into rubles.
Moscow said the scheme was designed to protect its profits from being frozen. Some Western nations buying Russian fuel have declared they will not pay in rubles because the current contracts do not require them to do so.
During his report to the lawmakers, Mishustin conceded that the economic pressure against the country has had a serious effect. “The current situation can be called without reservation the most difficult in the three decades of [modern] Russian history,” he said.
However, the PM insisted that his government could deal with the issues presented by the Western moves. “Those who are trying to isolate us and cut us out of the world economy will fail,” he said. “Our nation is integrated into the global processes.”
He called on opposition factions in the parliament to rally behind the government and help it steer the nation through the crisis. Doing so is necessary to protect the interests of the Russian people, he said.
“Whatever disputes we may have about the development of the country and various parts of life in it, I am certain that we are united on the goals of defending our citizens and national security,” he said.
The US and its allies targeted Russia with an unprecedented number of economic sanctions in retaliation to Moscow’s military attack against Ukraine in late February. Mishustin said Western nations launched the onslaught “to stir panic and hurt everyone” in Russia.
“The architects of the strategy expected this sanctions storm to destroy our economy within days. This scenario did not come to fruition,” the prime minister said.
Moscow attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements signed in 2014, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French brokered Minsk Protocol was designed to regularize the status of the regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two regions by force.