The U.S. State Department has defended new sanctions on Russia, saying they were prompted by Moscow's actions in Ukraine. But as Ivor Bennett reports, with Donald Trump becoming President in a few weeks they may not have much long term impact on the economy.
It may be the end of a long goodbye, but he's clearly not done yet. The new sanctions on Russia a response, the White House says, to a spike in violence in Ukraine. But with less than a month to go before Obama leaves office, his team has been forced to defend the timing. Insisting it has nothing to do with the transition to Trump. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN JOHN KIRBY, SAYING: "This decision by the Treasury department had nothing to do with the time on the clock. It had everything to do with Russia's activities and support for the separatists in Ukraine and for their, and for their occupation of Crimea. That's what it had to do with. It had to do with Russia's actions." Those activities include the construction of a bridge to the Russian mainland. Two companies involved have been blacklisted, as well as others operating in Crimea. The sanctions also target executives at Bank Rossiya, known as the personal bank of state officials. All this could soon change though. The president elect has previously praised Vladimir Putin and said it would be good if the two countries could get along. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN JOHN KIRBY, SAYING: "The next administration will obviously have to make their own decisions about this. We hope that they will come to see the wisdom in not conducting business as usual with Russia, given their continued activities." The sanctions on Russia have stifled economic growth. But there are some who've benefited. Local farming's flourished as a result of the counter sanctions Russia imposed on food imports from the EU. Cheese in particular selling well. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) CHEESE MAKER AND CHEESE FAIR ORGANISER, OLEG SIROTA, SAYING: "There was no demand. We could not compete with the European farmers. But when the sanctions were introduced, everything has changed." And it could all change again of course. Only the next time, more may benefit.