US to slap sanctions on Russia over nerve agent attack in UK

Moscow, August 9

The US on Thursday said it would impose tough new sanctions on Russia after determining that Moscow used a deadly military-grade nerve agent to kill a former Russian double agent and his daughter in the UK.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia Skripal were hospitalised and treated for a nerve agent attack in March. While Yulia was discharged from a British hospital in April, her father recovered and left the hospital in May.

The State Department said in a statement that the sanctions were in response to the use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen and his daughter on March 4.

Russia has rejected allegations levelled by the UK that it was behind the deadly nerve-agent attack in the English city of Salisbury. 

The US, on August 6, determined that the Russian government “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said. The statement said following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect around August 22.

Meanwhile, Russia condemned the new round of US sanctions as illegal after news of the measures sent the rouble tumbling to two-year lows and sparked a wider asset sell-off over fears that Moscow was locked in a spiral of never-ending curbs by the West.

Moscow has been trying with mixed success to improve battered US-Russia ties since Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and Russia’s political elite was quick to chalk up a summit last month between Trump and Vladimir Putin as a victory.

But initial triumphalism swiftly turned sour as anger over what some US lawmakers saw as an over deferential performance by Trump and his failure to confront Putin over Moscow’s alleged meddling in US politics galvanised a new sanctions push.

In an early reaction, the Kremlin said the sanctions were illegal and unfriendly and that the US move was at odds with the “constructive atmosphere” of Trump and Putin’s encounter in Helsinki.

The Kremlin said the new sanctions were “illegal and do not correspond to international law.”  — Agencies


Curbs to come in two tranches

  • The new sanctions come in two tranches. The first, which targets US exports of sensitive national-security related goods, comes with deep exemptions and many of the items it covers have already been banned by previous restrictions

  • However, the second tranche, activated after 90 days if Moscow fails to provide “reliable assurances” it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups, is more serious

  • NBC, citing US officials, said the second tranche could include downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending the state airline Aeroflot’s ability to fly to the United States and cutting off nearly all exports and imports