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Britain Calls For More EU Sanctions On Russia


British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt attends a press conference with his Latvian counterpart after their meeting in Riga on August 15.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt attends a press conference with his Latvian counterpart after their meeting in Riga on August 15.

Britain's new foreign minister in his first major address has urged the European Union to increase sanctions against Russia, saying the bloc should stand "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States, which hit Moscow with new economic sanctions this month.

In a speech at the U.S. Peace Institute in Washington on August 21, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that, after Russia's alleged poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in England this year with a chemical nerve agent, the EU should apply more pressure to try to force Russia to honor international rules.

Responding to Hunt's speech, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Britain of trying to impose its policy toward Russia on the EU and the United States.

"Of course, we must engage with Moscow, but we must also be blunt: Russia's foreign policy under President [Vladimir] Putin has made the world a more dangerous place," Hunt said in the speech.

"Today, the United Kingdom asks its allies to go further by calling on the European Union to ensure its sanctions against Russia are comprehensive, and that we truly stand shoulder to shoulder with the U.S."

"That means calling out and responding to transgressions with one voice whenever and wherever they occur, from the streets of Salisbury to the fate of Crimea," he said, referring to the Ukrainian peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014.

NATO 'Credibility'

Without further action, Hunt said, NATO's "credibility" will be undermined.

"Those who do not share our values need to know that there will always be a serious price to pay if red lines are crossed -- whether territorial incursions, the use of banned weapons or, increasingly, cyberattacks," the British foreign secretary said.

Speaking in the Black Sea resort of Sochi after meeting with the Serbian foreign minister, Lavrov accused British politicians of having "quite a high opinion of themselves."

"A country which is leaving the European Union in the framework of Brexit is trying to dictate foreign policy to the European Union itself. And now, as it turns out, London wants to dictate foreign policy on Russia in Washington," the Russian foreign minister said.

Lavrov also alleged that Russia had offered Britain to discuss problems affecting bilateral ties, but had always been rebuffed "in a high-handed way."

Britain, the EU, and the United States have blamed Russia for an attack with the Novichok chemical agent that sickened former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, in March.

Two other British citizens living nearby were also exposed to the substance months later, and one of them died, in an incident British police believe was related to the first one.

Russia has denied any involvement in the attacks. But earlier this month, the United States, citing the Salisbury incident, imposed sanctions that, starting on August 22, will bar Russia from buying sensitive U.S. technology goods.

Washington has promised more, even tougher measures unless Russia agrees to allow international chemical weapons inspectors into the country and provides "reliable assurances" it will no longer use chemical weapons.

The new U.S.sanctions sparked a sell-off across Russian markets -- something that could recur if the promised second wave of sanctions is carried out.

Britain is preparing to leave the EU next year, but its sanctions policy is currently determined in Brussels. The EU recently agreed to renew sanctions against Russia that were first imposed in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine.

The EU has not imposed economic sanctions related to the chemical attacks in England, although it strongly condemned Moscow over the Skripal poisonings and joined diplomatic sanctions by expelling Russian envoys after the incident.

Hunt in his speech for the first time criticized China for not taking action after Russia's takeover of Crimea or over the chemical weapons attacks, warning Beijing that "with economic power comes political responsibility."

Hunt, who took over from Boris Johnson as Britain's foreign secretary in July, will meet U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other U.S. officials on August 21, and address the United Nations Security Council on August 23.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and TASS
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