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Sanctions on Russia to stay whoever wins U.S. vote: Putin ally

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Andrey Kostin, an ally of President Vladimir Putin and the head of Russian state bank VTB, believes that U.S. sanctions on Moscow will stay in place irrespective of how Americans vote next week, he told Reuters.

President Vladimir Putin, sitting next to Kostin this week at an investment forum, complained that the Trump administration had sanctioned Russia 46 times in the last four years.

Washington sanctioned Moscow after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election to tilt the contest in Trump's favour, an allegation Moscow has denied. They have also accused it of trying to meddle in the Nov. 3 vote.

"It is hard to say which of the candidates would be better for Russia-U.S. relations," said Kostin, 64.

Kostin, along with some other Russian officials and companies, was put under U.S. sanctions in 2018 for 'worldwide malign activity'.

The Kremlin, which appears to have a tepid preference for Trump, has said Russia will work with any U.S. leader. Recent statements from Putin suggest he is hedging his bets, praising and criticising both Trump and Joe Biden.

"It is not clear against whom and for what new sanctions need to be introduced (by the United States on Russia)," said Kostin. "For now, I believe that sanctions won't be scrapped and won't be toughened either.

"We are basing our plans on this assumption," said Kostin.

Trump, who has praised Putin in the past, has consistently trailed Biden in national polls for months, partly because of widespread disapproval of his handling of the coronavirus. Polls in the most competitive states, however, have shown a closer race.

The election has weighed on the rouble for months, with investors associating a victory by Biden, who has named Russia as the biggest threat to U.S. national security, with a greater risk of more sanctions.

(Reporting by Tatiana Voronova and Katya Golubkova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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