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EU Foreign Ministers OK Sanctions On GRU Chiefs, Novichok Suspects

Updated

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 foreign ministers have approved targeted sanctions against two senior Russian military intelligence officials and two men Britain suspects in the nerve-agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal.

The ministers on January 21 in Brussels approved asset freezes and visa bans on four Russian nationals, five Syrian nationals, and one Syrian entity suspected of involvement in chemical attacks.

The sanctions were imposed as a result of the suspected use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government in that country's war and the poisoning of former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury in March 2018.

The sanctioned Russians are Igor Kostyukov, the head of Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU; First Deputy GRU Director Vladimir Alekseyev; and the two suspected GRU agents whom Britain accuses of carrying out the Skripal attack.

The two suspected attackers traveled to Britain using passports with the names Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but the independent investigative organization Bellingcat has identified them as Aleksandr Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga and has provided evidence they were connected to the GRU.

The EU document on the sanctions refers to them as Mishkin and Chepiga, "aka" Petrov and Boshirov, while a tweet from the British Foreign Office about the announcement refers to them as Petrov and Boshirov.

The two men have denied working for the GRU or being involved in the Skripal attack, although they acknowledged they were in Salisbury at the time.

Two British citizens that British authorities said were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent used in the Skripal attack were hospitalized in June and one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died in July.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in Moscow that the new sanctions were not important and added that the United Kingdom had not handed over evidence that Mishkin and Chepiga were involved in the attack.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would "reserve the right to response measures in respect of this unfriendly move."

The Russians and Syrians were added to a sanctions regime approved in October 2018 that imposes asset freezes and visa bans on people and entities involved in the development or use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world.

EU ambassadors approved the sanctions on January 16.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels and Interfax
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