Kremlin warns new Ukraine leader against calls for more sanctions

MOSCOW, Russia – The Kremlin on Tuesday, May 21, warned Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky against asking Washington for more sanctions against Russia, suggesting it would not help his efforts to end the war in the east.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman spoke after US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in Kiev earlier in the day that Washington intends to impose sanctions on companies involved in the Moscow-led Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline project.

On Monday, May 20, Zelensky was sworn in as Ukraine's president and said his priority was ending the conflict with Russia-backed insurgents in the east, which has claimed some 13,000 lives since 2014.

In a meeting with US officials including Perry on Monday, Zelensky called on Washington to support Ukraine and introduce more sanctions against Moscow.

"This is the rhetoric that will not help Ukraine to sort out the problem of the southeast," said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, referring to the separatist conflict in the ex-Soviet country's industrial east.

Zelensky had told the US delegation that also included US Senator Ron Johnson that Washington should keep "increasing sanctions" against Moscow.

"We will not be able to overcome Russian aggression in Donbass and Crimea alone," Zelensky was quoted as saying by his office in reference to the eastern regions and Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.

Peskov said Ukraine should stick to the Western-brokered peace treaty – which is largely moribund – if it wanted to settle the conflict.

"The US cannot fulfil a list (of requirements) of the Minsk agreements. Russia cannot fulfil them either," he said.

"It is Kiev which can and must fulfil them."

The Kremlin has refused to congratulate Zelensky on his landslide election victory last month or the inauguration.

Nord Stream sanctions

Speaking in Kiev earlier Tuesday, US Secretary of Energy Perry said Washington is moving towards imposing restrictions on the companies involved in the Nord Steam 2 pipeline to Germany.

"The opposition to Nord Stream 2 is still very much alive and well in the United States," Perry said in comments released by the US embassy in Kiev.

Perry said he expected the US Senate and House to approve a bill on the planned measures "over the course of the not too distant future," later sending it to US President Donald Trump.

The bill will "have very-very onerous restrictions on companies that continue to do business with Nord Stream 2," Perry said.

The controversial 11-billion-euro ($12-billion) energy link between Russia and Germany is to run under the Baltic Sea and set to double Russian gas shipments to the EU's biggest economy.

Kiev, Washington and other countries are opposed to the pipeline, saying it will increase Europe's reliance on Russian gas.

Peskov dismissed the planned sanctions on Tuesday.

"The project has largely been implemented," he said.

Last week, Putin defiantly said Russia would finish the pipeline, which is currently scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

"I believe we will see its logical completion," he said. –