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MOSCOW, October 19. /TASS/. Russia will do nothing that could harm its interests in order to get the western sanctions lifted, Sergey Ivanov, the chief of Russia’s presidential staff, said in an exclusive interview with TASS.
"We will never do anything to harm our national interests just for the sake of seeing the sanctions lifted. Never ever! It was not us who took those measures, and we are not going to discuss in any format what is necessary for canceling them," Ivanov said.
He said the lifting of anti-Russia sanctions should not be linked with the restoration of peace in Ukraine.
"I would avoid any linkage here. Are you certain that the sanctions will be lifted from us even after impeccable compliance with Minsk-2? Are there any guarantees? Personally, I have big doubts on that score. There is no reason why we should offer excuses or ask for forgiveness," Ivanov said.
He admitted that "the financial and economic situation in the country is really grave."
"The sanctions did cause certain losses. The GDP is on the decline, and not on the ascent. We don't deny that. But! The root cause for the Russian economy's slowdown is not sanctions, but the fall in the world prices of oil and gas," he said.
"I agree that this has demonstrated again our strong dependence on hydrocarbons and how very bad this is. But on the other hand, we've been able to realize the vector of future action to be taken to ease the pressures of the raw materials factor," Ivanov added.
Moscow has no regrets for the expulsion from the G8, while the influence of sanctions on Russia’s economy is exaggerated by the West, Sergey Ivanov went on to say.
"The West grossly exaggerates the influence of the latest sanctions on the Russian economy. True, they do pose certain hindrances to us, it would be foolish to deny the obvious, but I will say again and again that in the past we lived through far greater problems," Ivanov said.
"Attempts to punish Russia are senseless and ineffective," he said. "We saw sanctions taken against us back during the rule of the Romanov dynasty. There's nothing new about them."
"Trade barriers were put up and financial obstructions posed again and again… Those measures were far harsher than the current ones. But we managed. We didn't get scared in the past, and we will stay firm this time," Ivanov said.
"Alexander Solzhenytsin said perfectly well that from time immemorial the West had felt scared of Russia's enormity," he added.
Ivanov stressed that the G8 is certainly not the place where Russia would like to get back.
"In the 1990s Russia spent much time and effort for the sake of being admitted to this club of select few; it eventually got there only to see for itself that the G8 was no longer capable of addressing any of the fundamental issues humanity was confronted with at the current stage," he said.
"The world today is very different. The G20 — that's the worthy level. It is there that truly important themes are being discussed and solution mechanisms can be devised," Ivanov added.
"Here is a Syria-related example. The need for eliminating the arsenals of chemical weapons in that country was agreed on within the G20 format, and not the G8 or G7 group. So there no regrets about the demise of the G8, believe me," he concluded.
According to Sergey Ivanov, the sanctions against Moscow have led to the split of elites not in Russia but in the West.
"It seems to me that the elites have split abroad rather than in our country," Ivanov said.
"Haven’t you noticed that when officials — ministers, speakers and, all the more so, presidents or the heads of governments — speak, they criticize Russia unmercifully with a frown on their faces and a quivering voice," he said.
"But when politicians who have left the upper echelons of power for various reasons start to speak, the tonality of their speeches changes dramatically. Foreign and defense ministers and other reputable persons who have left their posts suddenly begin to openly show solidarity with our position on many issues," Ivanov added.
"This suggests that you are obliged to talk this way and no other way while you are in power. It is only after you resign that you can express your own thoughts and views. This is not forbidden but only for ex-officials and not for persons holding posts," he said. "Those who return to power, start to criticize us with a new vigor. I have long grown accustomed to this. And look at it with humor."
Ivanov also said he disliked the word "elites". "To my mind, this word can be used for those who have done something useful, necessary and tangible for the home country in the course of several generations," he said.
"Some representatives of the business circles (but not elites) have suffered from the sanctions," he added. "But everything is relative. I believe, although I do not assert, that [Gennady] Timchenko or [Arkady and Boris] Rottenberg [the Russian billionaire businessmen hit by the western sanctions] also have yachts. No one has taken these yachts away from them."
"As for how some businessmen look at others and how, it is better to address this question to them. I believe that no problems arise in interpersonal communication there and everything is understandable to everyone. But this is my presumption," Ivanov said.
"Strictly speaking, in the context of the influence of sanctions on business, it is more appropriate to talk not about the freedom of travel across the world but, say, about the restricted access to the capital market, which, indeed, has serious economic consequences for companies included in the sanctions lists."