MOSCOW, August 8 (RIA Novosti) - Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to impose tougher sanctions on Russia the day after Moscow imposed an embargo on Australian agricultural goods, The Australian wrote Friday.
"We will be working towards strong sanctions. The way to avoid increased sanctions is for Russia to call off what it appears to be in preparation for," Abbott was quoted as saying to reporters in Sydney.
He said the damage to Australia from the embargo would be dramatic, as the country "does hundreds of millions of dollars of agricultural business every year with Russia," but defended the sanctions aimed at forcing Russia to act toward the settlement of the months-long conflict in Ukraine.
"But let’s be very clear about this - Russia has been a bully. Russia is a big country trying to bully a small country," he said.
Australia, along with the European Union, the United States, Canada, and Norway, fell under Russia's one-year ban on the imports of beef, pork, poultry, fish, seafood, milk, dairy products, as well as fruits and vegetables on Thursday. The measures came as response to sanctions imposed on Russia over its alleged involvement in the Ukrainian crisis.
Over the past three months, the United States imposed several rounds of sanctions against Russian officials, business people and companies and pressed for the allies in the West to follow its lead. The European Union, Canada, and Australia soon caved in to the US sanctions push and drew up their own blacklists.
The United States and the EU expanded their sanction lists after the Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in Eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing 298 people, 27 of them Australian. The West accused Russia of supplying the local militia with a missile that was used to down the airliner. Russia has denied such allegations.
Australia withheld stricter measures against Russia while its investigators visited the plane crash site, but their departure now opened doors for tougher sanctions.
Moscow said it was ready to review the terms of its import restrictions if Western partners show commitment to dialogue.