© Reuters. Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks during a session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) in Saint Petersburg, Russia June 16, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

(Reuters) – Russia sees charges brought by the United States against five Russian nationals for alleged sanctions violations as an attempt to intimidate the business community in Russia and abroad, its foreign ministry said on Thursday.

U.S. prosecutors on Wednesday charged the five with sanctions evasion and other violations related to shipping military technologies bought from U.S. manufacturers to Russian buyers. Some of the electronics obtained through the scheme have been found in Russian weapons platforms seized in Ukraine, prosecutors said.

One of the people charged in the case was arrested in Germany and another was detained in Italy.

“The cynicism of this situation is that it is about taking hostages for further political gain,” spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement.

“We view the detention of Russian citizens … for their subsequent extradition to the U.S. as a continuation of Washington’s large-scale campaign to capture Russians on whom the U.S. has ‘claims’, with a view to their subsequent guaranteed conviction by U.S. punitive justice for lengthy prison terms,” she added.

The charges came as Washington seeks to expand its sanctions and pressure on the Kremlin to stop the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.

“As part of Washington’s de facto involvement in Ukraine as a party to the conflict, there is another attempt to stage a showdown to intimidate the business community in Russia and abroad,” Zakharova said.

“It is clear that the hunt for Russian citizens by U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies will only increase. Such hostile actions will of course not go unanswered,” she added.

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