MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin on Friday said Moscow would hold off on further reciprocal sanctions against the United States, after Washington introduced punitive measures against his close allies over the Ukraine crisis.
"You know, both in the first case -- the American sanctions -- and in the second case -- the introduction of a visa regime with Ukraine -- I think we should for now hold off on reciprocal steps," Putin told a meeting of his Security Council.
Putin made light of the fresh US sanctions, saying he would now open an account with a bank targeted by US punitive measures.
"As far as this financial institution is concerned, as I understand it's a middle-sized bank," Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin, referring to Bank Rossiya.
"I personally did not have an account with it but will open an account there on Monday for sure."
Washington targeted Bank Rossiya as a "crony bank" for the Russian elite and also threatened to target the broader Russian economy if Moscow escalates the Ukraine crisis.
The Russian strongman, known for his dark sense of humour, jokingly suggested he should steer clear of the targeted officials.
"You have to stay away from them, they are compromising us," he said to laughter.
Participants of the Security Council meeting included several of the blacklisted officials, among them Putin's chief of staff Sergei Ivanov and Sergei Naryshkin, speaker of the lower house of parliament, the State Duma.
US President Barack Obama on Thursday announced fresh sanctions against some of Putin's closest allies including several billionaire businessmen.
Russia had earlier on Thursday had said it was introducing travel bans against nine US officials. The measure came in response to an announcement by Washington on Monday of financial sanctions on seven top Russian government officials and lawmakers.
The Russian officials have ridiculed the sanctions against them but the punitive measures have proved biting, leading ratings agencies Standard and Poor's and Fitch to downgrade Russia's outlook to negative from stable.
Russian billionaire Gennady Timchenko was targeted by US sanctions shortly after selling his stake in Swiss-based commodity trading company Gunvor.
The company said Timchenko offloaded all his shares in the company he founded after "anticipating potential economic sanctions".