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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov looks on at the start of two days of closed-door nuclear talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrice Coffrini/Pool(reuters_tickers)
By Alexander Winning and Doina Chiacu
MOSCOW/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it was cancelling a high level meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon in response to what it called a significant widening of U.S. sanctions against Moscow.
Moscow said it was obliged to react after the U.S. government on Tuesday added 38 individuals and organisations to its list of those sanctioned over Russian activities in Ukraine, angering the Kremlin which says its wants to repair relations with Washington that are languishing at a post Cold War low.
The new U.S. sanctions were "a continuation of the trend set by the Obama administration aimed at ruining relations between our countries", Ryabkov said in a statement posted on the website of Russia's Foreign Ministry.
The U.S. move seriously undermined Washington's assertions it wanted dialogue with Moscow, the statement added, calling the new sanctions a "political gift" to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was on a visit to the United States on Tuesday.
The U.S. State Department said it regretted the Russian cancellation, but remained open to future discussions to try to bridge bilateral differences.
The new sanctions only reinforced existing sanctions, which have been updated twice a year since they were first imposed, it said.
"Let's remember that these sanctions didn't just come out of nowhere. Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia's ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbour, Ukraine," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The Kremlin said earlier on Wednesday that Russian forces were not present in eastern Ukraine, which is controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The United States and the European Union have imposed several rounds of sanctions on Russian companies and individuals in response to Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict.
Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate last week also backed additional sanctions to punish Russia for alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, its annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, and support for Syria's government in the six-year-long civil war.
Ryabkov was meant to be meeting Shannon in St Petersburg on Friday to discuss "problems in bilateral ties".
But Ryabkov, in the same statement on Wednesday, accused the United States of failing to propose anything tangible to improve relations.
He said: "Previous multiple waves of American sanctions haven't achieved the result which their initiators had hoped for. Any new attempts to make Russia 'bow down' will be just as futile."
(Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Andrew Osborn)