USA imposes sanctions on Russian Federation for nerve agent attack in UK

Jeannie Matthews
August 10, 2018

The U.S. State Department on Wednesday invoked the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 to impose new sanctions against the government of the Russian Federation for using the banned Novichok chemical weapon against the Skripals.

"The government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of worldwide law", US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

A senior U.S. State Department official said the new sanctions targeted export licenses of sensitive U.S. technologies and industrial equipment, such as electronics, calibration equipment, and gas-turbine engines.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia were found slumped unconscious on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Sergei Skripal is a former Russian military office who was convicted of spying for Britain.

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former colonel in the Russian army, said the State Department's move looked like the latest salvo in what he called a hybrid war.

"You can impose sanctions against another state because you want to see a change in behaviour of the other state", says Professor Moritz Pieper, a lecturer in global relations at the University of Salford.

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The US is trying to play up this "anti-Russian topic as a way to continue demonising Russia" and make it appear that it is not fulfilling its worldwide obligations, Ms Zakharova said. "So linking these events is unacceptable to us, and just as with previous USA sanctions we believe are absolutely illegal and against worldwide law", Peskov told reporters. That could include the US withdrawing support for worldwide loans and USA bank loans, blocking Russian airlines from landing in the US, and suspending diplomatic relations. "Such a message might not go down well in Moscow", Prof Cullinane added.

The United Kingdom welcomed the move from the U.S. on Wednesday.

One of the hardest hit was Aeroflot, the Russian state airline, which could lose its ability to fly to the United States as a possible outcome of the new sanctions.

The US administration is obliged to act, under legislation, if chemical or biological weapons have been used. The Russian government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

The official said the first tranche of sanctions, being imposed under a 1991 US law concerning chemical and biological weapons, would take effect on August 22. A ban on Aeroflot flights to the United States could lead to a ban on USA airlines traversing Russian airspace.

British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the USA decision.

Mr Putin, himself a former KGB spy, said earlier this month Mr Skripal would have been dead if he was attacked with a weapons-grade agent. Waivers have been issued for foreign assistance and space flight activities, while commercial passenger aviation and other commercial goods for civilian use will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to the official who briefed reporters. Paul's meeting with Putin will allow Trump to communicate this uncomfortable decision with some diplomatic cordiality.

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