MOSCOW — Deputies in the Russian parliament on Friday welcomed the decision by Britain to leave the European Union, with officials speculating that the so-called Brexit was a defeat for the United States and will lead to an easing of economic sanctions against Russia.
“We’ll send a congratulatory telegram to Prime Minister Cameron: ‘Dear David, our big friend, we are happy that Great Britain has made the right choice despite your campaigning’,” the nationalist Liberal Democratic party said in a statement.
The party’s leader, populist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, said “rural, provincial, working Britain said 'no' to the union, which was created by the financial mafia, globalists and all others,” according to Russia’s Interfax news agency.
“The British voted for the sovereignty of the British parliament and, that means, for democracy and against the dictatorship of Brussels civil servants,” said Andrei Klishas, a senator in Russia’s upper house of parliament, the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Unlike other world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who urged Britons to stay in the EU, Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to endorse either side. Many experts predicted a Brexit vote would weaken the EU and open up foreign policy opportunities for Moscow.
The news of the leave vote was covered extensively by Russian state-owned media outlets.
“Fun times are beginning. #whereismypopcorn,” tweeted the head of RT, formerly Russia Today, the Kremlin-sponsored English news broadcaster.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, currently on an official visit to China, did not make any comment Friday morning. His spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Brexit is the internal affair of Great Britain and a question of the relationship between Great Britain and the EU,” RIA Novosti reported.
But Russian officials said that the Brexit vote will likely weaken EU's resolve on sanctions imposed on Russia over the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Britain was one of the strongest backers of the sanctions, which were seen in London as an important measure to curb Moscow’s imperial ambitions.
“Without Britain in the European Union there is no-one to so eagerly defend sanctions against us,” tweeted Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin.
Others predicted that the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU will trigger a wider crisis in the 28-member bloc and that the outcome represents a defeat for the United States, which a section of the Russian elite see as a hegemonic world power whose influence is doomed to wane.
“The results of the vote by the British is a political earthquake that will have far-reaching consequences. From 24.06.16 we live in a different Europe,” tweeted Alexei Pushkov, head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Russia’s parliament. “It is a defeat of the opponents of Brexit. And the personal failure of Barack Obama.”
Boris Titov, an advisor to Putin and Russia’s business ombudsman, said that Brexit means the separation of the Anglo-Saxon world from that of Europe.
“The most long-term consequence of all this is that leaving will tear Europe from the Anglo-Saxons, in other words the USA. It’s not the independence of Great Britain from Europe but the independence of Europe from the USA,” Titov wrote Friday on Facebook.
Former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said on Twitter that Brexit would make both Great Britain and the European Union economically weaker — but that it would not have significant consequences for Russia.
The Russian ruble fell almost 2 percent against the U.S. dollar in Friday morning trading. Russia’s main stock exchange, the ruble-denominated MICEX, was down 2.82 percent.