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Germany calls for EU countermeasures against US following Russian sanctions

Germany's economy minister has urged the EU to consider countermeasures against the US after it imposed new sanctions against Russia. Brigitte Zypries has said the US sanctions end up affecting German firms.

Germany's economy minister, Brigitte Zypries, on Monday decried the US' latest round of sanctions against Russia, insisting that they violate international law by indirectly punishing European firms.

Read more: Russian countersanctions not affecting EU 

"The Americans cannot punish German companies because they are doing business in another country," Zypries told Germany's Funke media group. "Of course we don't want a trade war," she added, pointing out that the federal government had pushed "the Americans not to deviate from a coordinated approach to sanctions."

Read more: US sanctions expert: European concerns are exaggerated

However, those calls were effectively ignored last week, after the US House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of imposing new sanctions on Russia.

Watch video 01:43

US sanctions on Russia could hit German companies

The latest sanctions bill includes a passage that allows fines for businesses found to be helping Moscow build up its energy export pipelines. That could theoretically lead to European energy firms facing harsh penalties for their ties to Russian partners. Europe after all relies more on Russia for its primary energy imports than any other country, according to Eurostat, the European Commission's statistical body.

Read more: Germany's Angela Merkel slams planned US sanctions on Russia

Of particular concern to European energy firms is Nord Stream 2, a pipeline project to pump Russian natural gas via the Baltic Sea to landfall in Germany. The project is being spearheaded by Russian energy giant, Gazprom, and a number of European energy firms, including Wintershall of Germany and ÖMV of Austria.

Zypries: Europe ready to impose counter measures

Germany's economy minister called on the European Union to begin looking into countermeasures against Washington's latest sanctions against Russia. Europe is "ready, to take short-term retaliatory measures - including in other areas," Zypries said.

As of Monday, Brussels had not commented on the US' sanctions bill and its bearing on European energy firms.

The Kremlin meanwhile retaliated on Sunday, ordering the US to cut around 60 percent of its diplomatic staff based in Russia. While the cuts will affect US embassy and consular operations in Russia, it does not carry the same political weight as expelling US diplomats - a move carefully calibrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin to appear tough on Washington without severing US investment ties or his relationship with US President Donald Trump.

Watch video 01:34

German island hit by Russia sanctions

dm/se (Reuters, dpa)

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