US prepares more sanctions on Russia over UK nerve attack
WASHINGTON: The United States said on Tuesday it was preparing more 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 United States 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.”
The Kremlin said new sanctions would be illegal and that Russia would respond with similar measures.
And in comments after Democrats seized control of the lower house of the US Congress in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Russia said it did not foresee bilateral ties improving any time soon.
“Rosy prospects for the normalisation of Russian-US ties are not visible on the horizon,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
He insisted, however, that Russia still wanted dialogue with the US. Lawmakers across the political spectrum have urged a strong response to Russia, despite President Donald Trump’s avowed affinity for 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 weaponsgrade 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,” he added.
ON GUARD: A police officer guards a cordoned off area in the city centre where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found poisoned, in Salisbury, Britain.-