US to impose sanctions on Russia over nerve agent attack

Forensic investigators, wearing protective suits, emerge from the rear of John Baker House, after it was confirmed that two people had been poisoned with the nerve-agent Novichok, in Amesbury. (Reuters)

The United States will impose sanctions on Russia for its use of a nerve agent in an attempt to kill a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

The State Department says on Wednesday the sanctions will be imposed on Russia because it used a chemical weapon in violation of international law.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, in the British town of Salisbury in March.

Britain has accused Russia of being behind the attack, which the Kremlin vehemently denies.

Since the March attack, two other British nationals with no ties to Russia have been poised by the substance.

Following a 15-day congressional notification period, the sanctions will take effect on or around August 22, according to a statement from the State Department.

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 will cover sensitive national security goods, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call, citing the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.

There would, however, be exemptions for space flight activities and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, which would be allowed on a case by case basis, the official added.

The official said 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.

“If those criteria are not met - it is up to Russia to make that decision - a second round of sanctions ...will to be imposed,” the official said, “They are in general more draconian than the first round.”

The news came as Republican US Senator Rand Paul said on Wednesday he had delivered a letter from President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin proposing cooperation.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 14:03 - GMT 11:03
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