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US sanctions against Russia damaging Europe: Moscow

European leaders symbolically start the flow of gas through the Nord Stream Baltic Sea pipeline at a ceremony on November 8, 2011 in Lubmin, Germany.

Russia has warned that Europe would be the one to suffer from the United States unilateral sanctions against Moscow since the sanctions are only aimed at promoting Washington’s commercial interests.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Europe is being forced to pay for US anti-Russia sanctions, because these sanctions "are seriously damaging the global economy."

“European businesses have to pay for such actions; producers from other world regions are replacing EU producers on the Russian market. The US is not suffering any damage, on the contrary," Lavrov added.

He made the remarks as Washington stepped up its opposition to a natural gas pipeline, known as the Nord Stream 2, which is an offshore pipeline that would transfer gas directly from Russia via the Baltic Sea. The pipeline will increase Europe’s reliance on Russia for gas supplies.

On Thursday, senior US diplomat Sandra Oudkirk said in Berlin that as a Russian energy project, the pipeline could face US sanctions.

Moscow responded immediately, saying the US efforts were “a crude effort to hinder an international energy project that has an important role in energy security.”

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier also said on Friday that the US was seeking to shore up its own exports.

Altmaier, a close ally to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, defended the pipeline construction and warned that Europe would respond firmly to Washington attempts to place its own economic interests before those of partners.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and US President Donald Trump hold a joint press conference in Washington, April 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

"The US are our friends and partners, and we want to defend our common values,” he said. “But if it's America first, and they put their economic interest before others, then they have to expect Europe to define their own interests and fight for them."

According to both German and US officials, US President Trump asked Merkel last month to drop support for the project to avoid a trans-Atlantic trade war.

Analysts say Washington opposes the gas pipeline because it believes the project would make Ukraine and other US allies in the EU more vulnerable to Russia’s pressure. Ukraine is currently the main transit route for Russian gas headed west.

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