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Russia Threatens to Seize U.S. Assets - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Russia Threatens to Seize U.S. Assets

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Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- The Kremlin is threatening to hit back if the European Union levies sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine.

Russian lawmakers are drafting a law that will allow Russia to confiscate assets belonging to U.S. and European companies if it faces sanctions.

Andrei Klishas, a senior lawmaker in the upper house, said the bill "would offer the president and government opportunities to defend our sovereignty from threats," state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

The tit-for-tat threats are the latest in a war of words over Russia's military intervention in Ukraine's southern Crimea region.

Russian forces remain in effective control of the Black Sea peninsula, in a tense standoff with Ukrainian forces loyal to the new interim government in Kiev.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned Wednesday on Twitter that possible sanctions will be on the agenda when EU leaders meet Thursday.

"The invasion of one country into another is contrary to all international laws. We must return to dialogue and to bear in mind that Ukraine should work with Russia and the EU," he said.

"We cannot accept, we members of the international community, a country that invades another."

It comes after a day of strong words Tuesday, when a defiant Russian President Vladimir Putin denied Russian troops were in Crimea but reserved the right to take military action to protect the safety of ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine.

He also slammed the interim government, which replaced ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian ally, as illegitimate.

Diplomatic efforts

As the high-stakes showdown in the Russian-majority Crimea region continues, diplomatic efforts to end the crisis continue.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia discussed their next steps in Paris Wednesday, ahead of the expected arrival of their Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in the French capital.

It's not yet clear whether Lavrov will agree to talks involving Ukraine. But Hague promised "every diplomatic effort" to bring Russia and Ukraine into the same room.

Hague said on Twitter that there was "strong unity there must be costs for Russia if they don't de-escalate."

Kerry reminded Moscow that it had, like Washington and London, signed an agreement in 1994, when Ukraine agreed to give up nuclear weapons, "to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine."

This means there are "very clear legal obligations that are at risk in this," he said.

On Tuesday, Kerry accused Russia of making up reasons for intervention in Ukraine, saying "not a single piece of credible evidence supports any one of these claims."

NATO members are set to meet with Russia's ambassador to the alliance Wednesday, amid concerns that the crisis could spread, and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt will meet with his Danish and Norwegian counterparts in Ukraine's capital, Kiev, he said on Twitter.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced in Brussels Wednesday the EU would would offer an aid package worth 11 billion euro to Ukraine. He said the package was "designed to assist a committed, inclusive and reforms oriented" Ukrainian government.

Barroso confirmed on Twitter that the aid package would consist "of immediate short and medium term measures offering trade, economic, technical and financial assistance to #Ukraine."

During his visit to Kie Tuesday, Kerry announced the United States will give Ukraine's new government a $1 billion loan guarantee. Senior U.S. administration officials told CNN this would help insulate the Ukrainian economy from the effects of reduced energy subsidies from Russia.

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