Moscow: Fresh EU and US sanctions on Friday dragged the ruble to a new low, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed them off and accused the West of using Ukraine as a political pawn.
The new punitive measures from Brussels, announced in lockstep with fresh sanctions from Washington, targeted major state firms and Russian officials including one of Putin's closest allies, Sergei Chemezov, head of Russian Technologies.
The ruble slumped to a new record for a second day, retreating to 37.89 against the dollar, and Moscow stock markets fell.
Putin, speaking today on the sidelines of a security summit in Tajikistan alongside his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, shrugged off the sanctions and said the Ukraine crisis was being used to destabilise global politics.
"I've had a sneaking thought that Ukraine itself does not interest anyone, but is being used as an instrument to destabilise international relations," he said in the Tajik capital Dushanbe in televised remarks.
Putin reacted to the sanctions with a heavy dose of irony, saying they would do "more good than harm" and that he "welcomed" travel bans on Russian officials as they would spend more time at home.
The Russian leader said he was confused by the latest move now that a week-long ceasefire was taking hold in eastern Ukraine.
"I don't even understand these sanctions. Maybe someone does not like that the process is moving along the path of peace?"
A ceasefire signed last Friday between Kiev and separatist rebels in Ukraine's industrial heartland has so far held, despite accusations of violations on both sides.
Putin added that Russia was considering retaliatory measures. His aide Andrei Belousov said on Thursday Russia could ban the import of cars and clothes.
The Russian foreign minister for his part said sanctions harmed the chances of creating lasting peace in war-torn Ukraine.
"We believe that adopting such decisions at the very moment when the peace process in Ukraine is gaining strength... Means choosing a path towards undermining the peace process," said Sergei Lavrov.
In Moscow, the speaker of parliament's lower house said the crisis was an excuse for US President Barack Obama to drum up tensions with its Cold War-era foe.