(Adds background, quotes)
By Darya Korsunskaya
ST PETERSBURG, Russia May 24 The European Union
should consider the interests of European companies working in
Russia when deciding on whether to impose sanctions on Moscow
over its involvement in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin's top
economic aide said on Saturday.
The United States and European Union have already hit dozens
of officials, lawmakers and companies close to Putin with
sanctions and EU leaders are due to discuss next week further
steps they could take against Russia if there are disruptions to
Ukraine's presidential election on Sunday.
"I hope very much that when making these decisions ... the
dependence and interests of European companies that are working
in Russia (will be considered)," Andrei Belousov told reporters
on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic
"These are European companies, which are working here,
working for European markets for the most part, and which are
taking suitcases full of cash to Europe."
The measures, including restrictions ranging from luxury
good imports to an oil and gas ban, envisage three scenarios -
low-intensity, medium-intensity and high-intensity
Belousov said that if any new measures were to restrict
Russia's foreign trade, Russia may take legal action by
appealing to the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) of the World
"If the (DSB) authority decides in favour of Russia, our
colleagues from the U.S. and the EU will find themselves, in -
how to say it - an interesting position," Belousov said.
If the DSB were to decide in favour of the U.S. and Europe,
Belousov said, it would be "even more interesting".
"This would mean that sanctions (have) become a WTO
practice," he said.
(Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Jason Bush and Raissa