Russia has called off key talks with the US as retaliation for Washington's latest round of sanctions on Moscow-backed entities. The move is seen as a fresh setback for the administration of US President Donald Trump which has been hoping to improve relations with the Kremlin.

Fresh sanctions were put in place by the US Treasury Department against more than three dozen Russian individuals and companies on Tuesday, 20 June, over Moscow's intervention in the Ukraine crisis.

Swiftly reacting to the blacklisting, Moscow said it was cancelling scheduled talks between US Under Secretary of State Thomas Shannon and Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov aimed at removing "irritants" in Russian-American relations.

"As we know, in the next few days there were plans to continue the bilateral consultations on the 'irritants' that we have accumulated in our relations, plans to find ways out of the extremely difficult situation in which the American side wore the partnership and cooperation with Russia down," read a statement from the Russian foreign ministry.

"After yesterday's decision on sanctions, the situation does not allow for a round of such a dialogue, especially as there is no content for it, since Washington didn't offer nor is offering now anything specific," added the ministry.

Shannon was supposed to travel to St Petersburg later this week for the talks. Shannon and Ryabkov originally planned to lead a working group following a similar meeting in New York in May.
Responding to Russia's decision, the US State Department expressed "regret", but justified the expansion of sanctions.

"Let's remember that these sanctions didn't just come out of nowhere. Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia's ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbour," said the department's spokeswoman Heather Nauert, adding that the fresh curbs are "designed to counter attempts to circumvent our sanctions".

US Russia talks
The now-cancelled talks were meant to address the 'irritants' in the US-Russia relations Reuters