US to add Rus­sia sanc­tions over Novi­chok hit

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD -

THE US said on Tues­day it was pre­par­ing fresh sanc­tions against Moscow over the at­tempted as­sas­si­na­tion in Bri­tain of a for­mer spy, af­ter a pre­vi­ous round sowed chaos on Rus­sian mar­kets.

Three months af­ter the US de­clared that Rus­sia vi­o­lated a US law that seeks the elim­i­na­tion of chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal weapons, the State De­part­ment told Congress in a legally-man­dated fol­low-up that Moscow had not come into com­pli­ance.

“We in­tend to pro­ceed in ac­cor­dance with the terms of the [Chem­i­cal and Bi­o­log­i­cal Weapons] Act, which di­rects the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ad­di­tional sanc­tions,” State De­part­ment spokes­woman Heather Nauert said in a state­ment.

She said the State De­part­ment was in dis­cus­sions with Congress, which has led the push to pun­ish Rus­sia, to de­ter­mine the ex­act mea­sures.

Bri­tish in­ves­ti­ga­tors said Rus­sian op­er­a­tives on March 4 tried to kill Sergei Skri­pal, a for­mer in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer and dou­ble agent, and his daugh­ter Yu­lia Skri­pal in the English city of Sal­is­bury.

The at­tack in­volved Novi­chok, a mil­i­tary-grade nerve agent de­vel­oped by the So­viet Union dur­ing the Cold War. The two Rus­sians sur­vived but a third per­son died af­ter ex­po­sure.

Un­der the US law, the State De­part­ment must slap fur­ther sanc­tions three months af­ter its ini­tial de­ter­mi­na­tion un­less a coun­try proves it has re­versed course on chem­i­cal and bi­o­log­i­cal weapons, for ex­am­ple by invit­ing in in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors.

Rus­sia has de­nied in­volve­ment in the Sal­is­bury at­tacks and has promised re­cip­ro­cal mea­sures to all US sanc­tions. Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev warned in Au­gust that any im­po­si­tion of fur­ther sanc­tions would con­sti­tute a “dec­la­ra­tion of eco­nomic war.”

Law­mak­ers across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum have urged a strong re­sponse to Rus­sia, de­spite Pres­i­dent Don­aldTrump’s avowed affin­ity for his coun­ter­part Vladimir Putin.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ed Royce, a Repub­li­can and out­go­ing chair­man of the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, said the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion needs to act quickly on new sanc­tions, adding: “Hes­i­ta­tion only en­cour­ages more Rus­sian ag­gres­sion.”

“No one should be sur­prised that Vladimir Putin re­fuses to swear off fu­ture use of weapons-grade nerve agents,” Royce said in a state­ment. “It is un­ac­cept­able that the ad­min­is­tra­tion lacks a plan – or even a time­line – for ac­tion on the sec­ond round of manda­tory sanc­tions re­quired by US law.”

Last month, US pros­e­cu­tors also in­dicted seven Rus­sian agents over hack­ing op­er­a­tions af­ter The Nether­lands said that spies had ob­tained ac­cess to the world’s chem­i­cal weapons watch­dog based in The Hague.


US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks at a rally in Mis­souri on Mon­day.

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