(Vatican Radio) Russia's Foreign Ministry has condemned new U.S. sanctions against Russians involved in the Ukraine conflict saying the move puts at "serious risk" the entire bilateral relationship amid mounting tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Listen to Stefan Bos' report:
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his American counterpart Rex Tillerson on Thursday that new sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia would damage relations between the two nations, Moscow said.
Sanctions target mainly Russian people and companies linked to the conflict in Ukraine, where Russia anneced the Crimean peninsula and allegedly supports pro-Russian seperatists in the east of the country.
The Russian Foreign Ministry quoted Lavrov as saying in the phone call that "Actions of this kind, put the entire sphere of Russian-American relations at serious risk."
Before the phone call, Lavrov already complained about what he called America's Russophobic obsession.
Lavrov told reporters that he "regrets the 'Russophobic' obsession" of "our American colleagues". He said that "It already crosses all lines."
He claimed that while Ukrainian President "Petro Poroshenko cannot fulfill his obligations under the Minsk peace agreements - sanctions against Russia continue."
Lavov added that "in the very complex processes taking place in Syria - only Russia is blamed and, of course, the Assad regime." Lavrov said, "there are also many examples of when American congressmen do not like some development or events in a region, they immediately attempt to blame Russia."
In another blow to Moscow, European Union leaders also voted Thursday to prolong the bloc's economic sanctions on Russia by another six months after discussing the increasingly troubled peace plan aimed at ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict.
Amid the East-West standoff, military tensions are rising.
In one of the latest incidents this week a fighter jet of the NATO military allience confronted a plane carrying Russia’s defense minister in neutral airspace over the Baltic Sea.
Russian media reported that is was being chased away by a Russian warplane. NATO confirmed the face-off, but denied it was chased away. The alliance also rejected allegations that it was not acting aggressively and said it didn't know that the defense minister was on board.
Dozens of similar incidents have been reported in the past few years.
Both NATO and Russia have blamed each other for aggressive intercepts in this strategically important area.