Putin calls for retaliatory steps against Western sanctions

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered that retaliatory measures be taken in response to Western sanctions against his country, as a top deputy announced an oil deal with Iran that may weaken international efforts to halt the development of that nation’s nuclear program.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also called for an international humanitarian intervention in Ukraine’s battle-torn east, a measure that some Western officials have worried may be a precursor to a unilateral Russian effort there as officials say that Russian troops are again building up at the border.

The combined efforts came in response to newly harsh Western sanctions at the same time pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are increasingly on the defensive.


Putin told regional leaders in a meeting that ‘‘the political tools of economic pressure are unacceptable and run counter to all norms and rules,’’ and he said he had issued orders to take steps to boost domestic manufacturers at the expense of non-Russian ones, although he offered no details.

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Also on Tuesday, Energy Minister Alexander Novak signed an agreement with Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zangeneh of Iran to broaden the two countries’ economic cooperation over the next five years, focusing on energy and infrastructure.

US and European Union officials expanded their sanctions last week against Russian economic sectors, businesses, and individuals, targeting the energy, defense, and financial industries after they said that Russia had failed to calm the increasingly violent conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Pro-Russian rebels appeared Tuesday to be getting pushed back further into their stronghold of Donetsk, as Ukrainian forces advanced into the outskirts of the city in what appeared to be the beginning of a major push to oust the insurgents.

Gunfire and loud explosions, apparently from rocket fire, were exchanged inside Donetsk’s western edge, the city government reported on its website. Artillery landed on a house, killing an elderly woman, along with her dog, according to the Associated Press.


The military has been encircling the city for several weeks now, and officials have stated that their goal is to ‘‘liberate’’ both Donetsk and Luhansk, the other main rebel stronghold. Residents have been sleeping in basements to protect themselves from the shelling. The military has announced humanitarian corridors and urged all Donetsk residents to evacuate. Most buses and trains are still operating.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it would seek an international ‘‘humanitarian mission’’ in the east, saying that the eastern regions of Ukraine were ‘‘on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.’’

The conflict has led to an increasing number of civilian deaths and a growing refugee crisis. Even as fighting in Donetsk was intensifying, the United Nations released figures that more than 285,000 people have already fled their homes in eastern Ukraine. It estimated 168,000 people have sought refuge in Russia, and more than 117,000 are displaced inside Ukraine. Western officials have said that Russia is providing the rebels with heavy weaponry, including tanks and antiaircraft missile systems, one of which, they say, was used to shoot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.