A vendor counts Russian rouble banknotes at a market in Moscow, March 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov)
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Russian government officials and businessmen are bracing for sanctions resembling those applied to Iran after what they see as the inevitable annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, according to four people with knowledge of the preparations.The Ukraine crisis triggered the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War, after Russian forces seized the Crimean peninsula. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that Russia risks "massive" political and economic damage, after saying that a round of European Union sanctions is "unavoidable" if Putin fails to take steps to ease tensions. The EU outlined a potential three-stage sanctions process against Russia last week, starting with the suspension of trade and visa-liberalization talks.The third stage envisaged "additional and far-reaching consequences" if Russia further destabilizes Ukraine.Russia's position is unchanged by the threat of sanctions, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said March 4 .The EU, Ukraine and Russia are economically dependent on each other in many regards, so strict sanctions will be hard on all sides, Putin has said.
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