US sanctions Chinese military for buying Russian weapons

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Washington/Beijing/Moscow : The US has imposed sanctions against China's military for its purchases of Russian military equipment in a move US officials said is meant to punish Moscow for its "malign activities", prompting stern warnings from Beijing and Moscow on Friday.

"Today's actions are not intended to undermine the military capabilities or combat readiness of any country... but rather to impose costs on Russia in response to its interference in the US election process, its unacceptable behaviour in eastern Ukraine, and other malign activities," the US State Department said on Thursday.

The penalties were applied under a law that requires the US to sanction anyone undertaking significant transactions with certain people affiliated with Russian intelligence and military services, including arms manufacturers, reported CNN.

US State Secretary Mike Pompeo also expanded that blacklist on Thursday, adding the names of 33 of Russia's most high-profile citizens, bringing the total roster to 72 people. In response, Beijing asked the US to lift the sanctions on the Chinese military or "bear the consequences".

"China expressed strong indignation towards the unreasonable move by the US and has made solemn representation," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

He added that Washington had violated the basic norms of international relations and disturbed ties with China. "We strongly call on the US to remedy the mistake and cancel the sanctions. Otherwise, it has to bear the consequences."

The US slapped the sanctions on the Chinese military's Equipment Development Department and its Director Li Shangfu for buying Su-35 combat aircraft and S-400 surface-to-air missile system from Russia.

Russia said Washington's latest batch of sanctions on it "undermined global stability and was akin to playing with fire".

"It would be good for them to recall the notion of global stability, which they recklessly upset by whipping up tensions in Russian-US relations," Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement cited by TASS news agency. "It's foolish to play with fire, because things could get dangerous."

"We've been keeping a close eye on how the US applies its sanctions against our country. This seems to have turned into some sort of national sport, with yesterday's anti-Russian measures becoming the 60th since 2011.

"Every new round of sanctions shows that our enemy's previous attempts to pressure Russia have failed to yield any result. Numerous US blacklists duplicate each other more and more. That's funny, but this is true," the minister said.

Among the blacklisted people was billionaire mogul Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as "Putin´s chef" and allegedly responsible for orchestrating the digital fake news campaign against the US.

The security and military businesses targeted by the sanctions included the Wagner Group, a private security company which Moscow allegedly use in their Syria operations; Oboronlogistika 000, responsible for feeding and transporting Russian troops in Crimea and KnAAPO, an aircraft manufacturer.

A US official said it was the first time anyone had been sanctioned for doing business with people on the blacklist of Russian operatives.

The list is mandated by the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed by Congress amid concern that President Donald Trump would not take tough action against Russia and could even move to ease sanctions on Moscow. The US move added to its already strained ties with China as the two are locked in a festering trade dispute.