Russia warns of suspension of flights in response to Western sanctions


Russia warned on Monday that it will hit back against the West if tougher sanctions are imposed over the conflict in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blamed countries backing the Kiev government for damaging the Russian economy with "stupid" sanctions and suggested Moscow could retaliate by stopping flights over Russian airspace.

Medvedev told the Vedomosti newspaper that Russia may have been too patient in responding to sanctions imposed so far by the United States and the European Union over the Kremlin's alleged role in Ukraine.

"If there are sanctions related to the energy sector, or further restrictions on Russia's financial sector, we will have to respond asymmetrically,” he was quoted as saying.

"If Western carriers have to bypass our airspace, this could drive many struggling airlines into bankruptcy. This is not the way to go.

"We just hope our partners realise this at some point."

A new package of EU-agreed sanctions, which would hit oil and gas giants Rosneft and Gazprom, is due to come into force on Monday but could be suspended if Russia is judged to be working towards a resolution of the Ukraine conflict.

A ceasefire agreed on Friday by envoys from Ukraine, the leadership of pro-Russian separatists fighting Kiev government forces, Russia and Europe's OSCE security watchdog, appears to be holding despite clashes around Donetsk and Mariupol in eastern Ukraine.

The rebels and the Ukrainian military insist they are strictly observing the ceasefire and blame the other for violations.

Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis could provide a tense backdrop to talks on Thursday between Russia and the US over a 1987 arms treaty agreement - which a Russian general suggested pulling out of earlier this year.