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The fewer government officials go abroad, the better -- Putin

Expansion of EU blacklists of Russian officials who will face restrictions on trip to the West and whose bank assets in the West will be frozen, will not inflict any major damage on Russia, President Vladimir Putin said here Friday upon completion of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

"The fewer the trips our officials and executives of large companies make to all sorts of places abroad, they more they engage in routine business and the same thing concerns deputies of the State Duma, who should communicate with their voters more frequently instead of spending time somewhere at overseas resorts," Putin said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he will agree with the proposal to impose sanctions in response to new Western penalty measures if they are for the benefit of Russian manufacturers.

"If the government concludes that some steps are in line with the interests of our economy, then we will do that," Putin told journalists.

"But if it's just for the sake of showing how tough we are, showing our teeth to sustain losses due to that, we will not do so," he said.

"The government is currently considering that, but if they [retaliatory sanctions] are adopted [by Moscow], then with the sole purpose to create better conditions for ourselves," Putin explained.

As an example, he cited the food embargo Russia introduced in response to the previous package of sectoral sanctions against Moscow on the part of the European Union, the United States and other countries.

The West's new package of sanctions against Russia looks "somewhat strange," since this move actually subverts the peace process in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin added.

"As for sanctions that were imposed today, or yesterday, it all looks somewhat strange - even on this background of the use of (sanction) mechanisms," Putin told journalists.

"Some time ago, I had a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and after it I proposed a plan how to solve this conflict peacefully and our positions coincided to a greater extent," Putin said, adding that his plan had been used as a basis for peace agreements "committed to paper at a Contact Group meeting in Minsk."

"And I would like to mention it with satisfaction that the process has moved off the starting block," with combat operations stopped and the offensive by the East Ukraine's militia suspended, he said. Apart from that, "you have to give the Ukrainian president his dues, the Ukrainian army has made corresponding steps under the agreements: they have withdrawn artillery and multiple launch rocket systems off populated areas to a distance that makes it impossible to fire on these settlement."

"A peace process has begun, first contacts have been launched and I think this process has yielded a possibility to begin a political settlement, at least provisionally," Putin said. "It has brought some positive air into the situation, which showed on Ukraine's southeastern regions."

Bearing this in mind, Putin said he did not see what had triggered further sanctions from the European Union. "I can't understand what these next sanction steps are about," he said.

"I've said it many a time that our Western partners first drove the situation into an anti-constitutional coup and then supported the punitive operation in the Southeast and now that the situation has switched over to the track of peace settlement someone is taking steps aimed at breaking the peace process up," Putin said.

"What is this done for?" he asked.

Russian officials and companies came under Western sanctions, including visa bans, asset freezes, and sectoral restrictions for Russia's incorporation of Crimea after a coup in Ukraine in February and for what the West claimed was Moscow's alleged involvement in mass protests and hostilities in Ukraine's embattled southeast, which Russia has repeatedly denied.

In response, Moscow imposed on August 6 a one-year ban on imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, cheeses, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from Australia, Canada, the EU, the United States and Norway.

The EU and US imposed a new batch of sanctions on Russia for Ukrainian developments from Friday despite the fact that the parties to the intra-Ukrainian conflict agreed on a ceasefire during OSCE-mediated talks on September 5, and that the truce took effect the same day.

[Source: Itar Tass, Dushanbe, 12Sep14]

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