Official: Russia Could See West's Sanctions As Cause For War

MOSCOW (AP) — A senior Russian official warned Thursday that Moscow could see Western sanctions as a cause for war.

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, denounced the Western restrictions as “boorish and cynical” and noted that they border on “economic war.”

“Under certain circumstances, such hostile measures could be perceived as an act of international aggression, or even as a casus belli,” Medvedev said in a speech at a legal forum, using the Latin term for a cause, or pretext, for declaring war. “In response to them a state receives the right for individual and collective defense.”

He emphasized that the Western sanctions over Russia’s military action in Ukraine “have a clear goal — to inflict as much pain as possible to as many citizens of our country as they can ... to ordinary citizens, not the country’s leadership or business elites.”

“The main aim is to punish the Russian people by trying to reduce economic activity and to provoke hyperinflation,” he added. Russian officials have sought to play down the impact of Western sanctions, and Medvedev's statement represented a rare acknowledgement that they hurt.

Medvedev, who served as Russia’s president in 2008-2012 when Putin shifted into the prime minister’s post due to term limits, was widely seen by the West as more liberal. In recent months, however, he has aired messages that sounded tougher than those issued by the most hawkish Kremlin officials.