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U.S. To Impose New Sanctions On Russia Over Skripal Attack


Police officers guard the cordoned-off area around the home of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, Britain, on April 3.

The United States has said it will hit Russia with new sanctions aimed at punishing Moscow for the March nerve-agent poisoning in Britain of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

The August 8 announcement by the State Department followed earlier moves by Washington to expel dozens of Russian diplomats, in coordination with Britain and other European allies, in response to the poisoning, which authorities said used a highly toxic agent known as Novichok.

A senior State Department official said the first tranche of sanctions would take effect on August 22, and were being imposed under a 1991 U.S. law concerning chemical and biological weapons.

The measure targets export licenses of sensitive U.S. technologies and industrial equipment, such as electronics, calibration equipment, and gas turbine engines. The official said requests for licenses to export such goods to Russia would now be "presumptively denied."

The officials said that could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in future exports to Russia.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Russia would then be given 90 days to comply with other specific demands, including allowing United Nations or international inspectors into the country to ensure that no chemical or biological weapons exist there.

'Reckless Behavior'

If Moscow does not comply, the second tranche could include things like further downgrading diplomatic relations with Russia, or even restricting flights by the state-owned flagship air carrier, Aeroflot.

The British Foreign Office said it welcomed the U.S. move to impose sanctions over the poisoning. A spokesman said a strong international response sends an "unequivocal message" to Russia that its "provocative, reckless behavior" will not go unchallenged.

The Russian Embassy in Washington denounced the new sanctions, which it called "draconian," and called allegations that Moscow poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia "far-fetched."

In a statement issued late on August 8, the embassy said neither Washington nor London has produced evidence supporting their allegations, but the U.S. State Department has told the embassy that it has enough "classified" evidence to conclude "Russia is to blame."

On March 4, the Skripals were found unconscious on a park bench in the town of Salisbury, England. They were seriously ill but subsequently made a full recovery after spending several weeks in hospital.

A composite file photo of Sergei Skripal (left) and his daughter, Yulia
A composite file photo of Sergei Skripal (left) and his daughter, Yulia

British authorities later determined that the Skripals had been poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union. The response and clean-up involved British military personnel.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's military intelligence agency, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court.

Moscow released him from prison in 2010, sending him to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap.

London later blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for the poisoning, and expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. In all, 150 Russian diplomats were kicked out of more than two dozen Western countries, including 60 from the United States.

The U.S. move is the latest in a growing number of punitive actions against Russia. Many of the moves have originated in Congress, with strong support from both Republicans and Democrats.

The effort to punish Russia has contrasted with President Donald Trump's repeated calls for a more conciliatory approach to Moscow.

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