Russia says new US sanctions over Skripal poisoning hurt ties

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Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that a move by the United States to impose another round of sanctions on Moscow over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain hurt ties and was regrettable.

Washington last year imposed a first batch of sanctions on Russia after determining that Moscow had used a nerve agent against a former Russian double agent, US, and his daughter Yulia, in Britain, something Moscow denies.

Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his daughter were found slumped unconscious on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury in March last year 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.

US media reports late on Thursday said US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order imposing another round of sanctions on Moscow over the case.

The reports said Washington was ordering the US government to stop international financial institutions such as the World Bank from lending to governments subject to US sanctions for using chemical or nuclear weapons.

The Russian rouble dipped to 65 versus the dollar on Friday for the first time in seven weeks, a fall analysts said could partly be attributed to the reported sanctions move.

Russia’s foreign ministry condemned the United States.

“I think that this is primarily connected to US domestic politics,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the RT TV channel.

Ryabkov said he regretted that US-Russia ties, already strained by differences over everything from Syria to Ukraine, had become a political football in the United States.

Russian officials have repeatedly complained about what they say is Trump’s lack of room for manoeuvre, due to pressure on him from Congress and political rivals to look tough on Moscow in the wake of its alleged interference in US politics, something Russia denies.

Ryabkov said Moscow linked the sanctions to upcoming presidential elections in the United States and said Moscow was ready to defend itself from any negative consequences caused by the new restrictions.

Trump levies more sanctions on Russia

President Trump issued an executive order late Thursday that imposes another round of sanctions against Moscow, which has denied wrongdoing in the spy case.

The poisoning ignited a diplomatic confrontation in which hundreds of envoys were expelled by both Russia and Western nations.

Members of Congress have been pressuring the White House to impose additional punitive measures on Moscow.

Earlier this week, Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Mike McCaul, the panel’s ranking Republican, wrote a letter to Trump telling him that he was required by law to impose a second round of sanctions.

The US imposed the first round after the secretary of state determined in August 2018 that the attack met the standard of a chemical weapons attack under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act. The congressmen said those first sanctions “largely imposed penalties that the United States had already put into place, such as terminating foreign assistance and arms sales to the Russian government.”

The congressmen told Trump that levying a second round was required after the State Department later determined in November 2018 it could not certify that Russia would not engage in such activity again. “We urge you to take immediate action to hold Russia fully accountable for its blatant use of a chemical weapon in Europe,” they wrote.