Thursday, August 09, 2018

USA to impose sanctions against Russia over Novichok attack

The USA has announced that it will impose fresh sanctions on Russia by the end of August after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian agent and his daughter in Britain.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in March after a liquid form of the Novichok type of nerve agent was applied to his home’s front door.

European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office.

Another two residents of the Salisbury area were subsequently taken to hospital after coming into contact with a container of the Novichok nerve agent used in the attack, one of whom, mother of three Dawn Sturgess, died in July as a result. Her partner Charlie Rowley was also taken ill after being exposed to the nerve agent.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it had been determined that Russia “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.”

The sanctions would cover sensitive national-security controlled goods, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call, citing the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act. The sanctions are required under this act because it mandates punishment of countries that use chemical weapons in violation of international law. There would, however, be exemptions for space flight activities, government space cooperation, and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, which would be reviewed on a case by case basis, the official added.

The US government also said that a second batch of “more draconian” sanctions would be imposed after 90 days unless Russia gives “reliable assurances” that it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups. “If those criteria are not met - it is up to Russia to make that decision - a second round of sanctions … will be imposed,” a State Department official said. “They are in general more draconian than the first round.”

A British government spokesman welcomed Washington’s announcement, saying: “The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behaviour will not go unchallenged.”

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