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EU Ambassadors Approve Sanctions Against Novichok Suspects

Two men carrying passports with the names Ruslan Boshirov (right) and Aleksandr Petrov are among those who have been hit with sanctions. (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- European Union ambassadors agreed on January 16 to impose sanctions on four Russian military intelligence officers who the EU says are responsible for carrying out chemical attacks, including the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018.

EU diplomats told RFE/RL that two of the Russians who will have any assets in the EU frozen and be subject to a visa ban are the pair British authorities have blamed for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, who were hospitalized in critical condition after being exposed to a nerve agent known as Novichok in the English city of Salisbury in March.

Those two were carrying passports with the names Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but open-source investigative organization Bellingcat has identified them as Aleksandr Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga and provided evidence they both worked for the Russian military intelligence agency, known as GRU.

In June 2018, two other British citizens were apparently accidentally exposed to the nerve agent that the two Russians allegedly brought into Britain. One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died in July without regaining consciousness.

The sanctions are expected to be approved by EU foreign ministers when they meet in Brussels for the EU foreign affairs council on January 21.

The listing, which also includes 5 Syrian citizens, are part of a new sanctions regime approved by the EU in October 2018. It allows the bloc to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and entities for the development and use of chemical weapons regardless of their nationality and location.

With reporting by RFE/RL correspondent Rikard Jozwiak
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