White House: Putin’s import ban will only hurt Russian economy

The White House warned Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s retaliatory ban on U.S. agricultural imports would only hurt his own country’s economy.

"Retaliating against Western companies or countries will deepen Russia’s international isolation, causing further damage to its own economy," White House spokesman Shawn Turner said.

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"Russia’s Central Bank yesterday pointed out that bans on imported food will push up Russia’s already high inflation rate, eroding the purchasing power of Russian citizens," he added.

The Kremlin announced earlier Wednesday that it would for ban "agricultural produce, raw materials and foodstuffs originating in countries that have decided to impose economic sanctions" on Russian businesses and individuals for one year.

U.S. exporters shipped $1.3 billion in food and agricultural products to Russia last year, the USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service told The Associated Press. Because Moscow has just begun drafting the sanctions, it's not clear the extent to which the penalties will affect those exports.

The Kremlin’s move came days after Putin and President Obama spoke by phone and is a response to the U.S. and European Union introducing their most robust sanctions yet against Russian energy, defense and banking industries. 

In the call, Obama "reiterated his deep concerns about Russia’s increased support for the separatists in Ukraine," according to the White House.

The U.S. has decried Russia's annexation of the Crimean peninsula and support for pro-Russian separatists operating in eastern Ukraine. Those rebels are believed to have downed a Malaysian passenger jet, possibly with Russian assistance, in an incident last month that left nearly 300 dead.

Putin told Obama in their call that the additional Western sanctions were "counterproductive," according to a statement from Moscow.

“The Russian leader described Washington’s course of ramping up sanctions pressure as counterproductive, causing serious damage to bilateral relations and international stability in general,” the Kremlin's statement said.

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