MOSCOW/KIEV, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Russia on Thursday vowed to retaliate against new sanctions from the West, while the United States mounted up pressure on Russia by conducting military exercises with East European troops.
Russia will retaliate against new sanctions from the United States and Canada, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told reporters.
"Of course, we will not leave such unfriendly actions unanswered," Lukashevich said. "Sanctions are not our choice, but unfriendly actions force us to hit back."
The names of new persons blacklisted by Russia would not be made public, but those people will learn about that when they apply for a visa, he said.
"We did not run after quantity and did not make a show, unlike the Americans and Canadians," Lukashevich was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
The United States banned a bunch of Russian politicians and business leaders from entry in mid-March in the first wave of sanctions against Moscow's absorption of Crimea, followed by the European Union and Japan.
On April 28, Washington slapped fresh sanctions on seven Russian officials and 17 companies amid rising tensions in Ukraine.
Besides sanctions, the United States mounted up pressure on Russia by conducting a new military exercise with Estonia and planing to conduct two more bilateral exercises in the Baltic region over the next two months, in order to reassure its allies amid the Ukraine crisis, a Pentagon spokesman said on Thursday.
Speaking at a daily briefing, Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren said the Exercise Spring Storm has begun earlier this week, with U.S. special operation forces training with their Estonian counterparts.
Two more bilateral special operation exercises -- Flaming Sword and Namejs -- will be held over the next two months, Warren said.
At the same time, Warren also said the United States has seen no change in the Russian posture along its border with Ukraine, despite the latest statements by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that Russian forces had pulled back from the area.
Putin announced Wednesday that Russia had withdrawn its troops from the Ukrainian border and called for a delay of referendum on autonomy in Ukraine's southeastern region.
Putin will join Western leaders in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France next month despite a standoff over Ukraine, Russia's envoy to Paris said on Thursday.
"French president Francois Hollande has invited Putin who has accepted the invitation and will attend the June 6 ceremony in Normandy," Moscow's ambassador Alexander Orlov told news channel BFMTV on the sidelines of "Victory in Europe" Day ceremony in Paris.
Despite Moscow's calls for postponing the referendum in eastern Ukraine, the leaders of pro-Russia forces ignored the appeal and decided Thursday to move ahead with their plan to hold a referendum on May 11 on the region's future destiny.
"The referendum is the only way to solve the controversial issues and to inform the world of what is really going on here," pro-Russia movement leader Denis Pushilin told reporters during a media conference.
According to him, the working groups of the self-proclaimed republics in the country's Donetsk and Lugansk regions voted unanimously in favor of holding the referendum on Sunday.
The vote, initiated by the pro-Moscow movement in eastern Ukraine, will ask people whether their regions should become sovereign republics, independent from government in Kiev.
At least one person was killed and two others were wounded in a shooting early Thursday near a checkpoint in eastern Ukraine, authorities said.
It was not immediately clear whether the incident has any relation to the pro-Russian movement in eastern Ukraine.