Moscow has barred entry into Russia of seven British citizens involved in anti-Russian activities in retaliation for a similar move by London against the same number of Russians back in August.
"In response to the unfriendly actions of London, and based on the principle of reciprocity, Russia made a decision to impose personal sanctions against the similar number of British citizens, deeply involved in anti-Russian activities,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
“They are barred from entering the Russian Federation," Zakharova added without identifying the sanctioned individuals.
On August 20, the UK and the US imposed sanctions against seven Russians they claimed acted as intelligence operatives responsible for the alleged poisoning of Western-backed opposition figure Alexei Navalny. It marked the second time London had taken such measures against Russian officials.
British authorities also imposed restrictions in October 2020 against six other Russians, including first deputy head of the presidential administration Sergey Kiriyenko and FSB (Federal Security Service) director Alexander Bortnikov.
Zakharova said Moscow considers London’s unmotivated outburst "a practical confirmation of the British government’s intend to keep following the destructive course in bilateral relations."
"We regret to state that the consecutive revving up of sanctions flywheel by the British authorities nullifies all attempts made by the Russian side at various levels to return the international relations back on a constructive track," she noted.
"Once again, we call on the UK authorities to abolish the confrontational line regarding our country. No unfriendly steps will be left without a proportional response."
The announcement came two days after Zakharova vowed that Moscow would adequately respond to the expulsion of two of its diplomats from Berlin amid escalating tensions between Russia and the West.
Russia and Western countries have seen a further deterioration in relations over a series of diplomatic expulsions and mutual espionage claims in the past few months.
In April, Moscow ordered 10 American diplomats to leave the country after Washington expelled Russian diplomats.
The US and the European Union have slapped sanctions against a number of Russian officials and companies in recent months. Moscow has denounced the sanctions as the “triumph of absurdity over reason” and “an excuse to continue open interference in our internal affairs.”
Tensions between Russia and members of the US-led NATO military alliance have also surged in recent weeks over Washington's claims of Russian plans to attack neighboring Ukraine.
A German government source said on Tuesday that the EU had been in talks with the US and the UK about possible financial sanctions on Russia in case of an offensive against Ukraine.
Senior officials in Moscow warned that Europe would be the one to suffer from Washington’s unilateral sanctions since they are only aimed at promoting American commercial interests.
The US and the UK also threatened Russia on Saturday with "massive consequences" if it takes military action against neighboring Ukraine.