US punishes Russia for nerve agent poisoning

Sanctions officially maintain Russia attacked spy on UK soil

US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin embrace at the Helsinki Summit in July. Image courtesy of the Kremlin.

The United States has punished Russia for its alleged poisoning of spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on British soil – more than five months after the attack.

New sanctions, published on Monday, will target exports and financing between the two nations and serve as the most definitive confirmation from US lawmakers that it maintains Russia was behind the controversial poisoning.

As published by Russia Reports, former double agent Skripal and his daughter fell victim to the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in the English town of Salisbury in March. The poisoning provoked international condemnation and subsequent sanctions from the United Kingdom against Russia. Both Skripals were admitted to intensive care but survived the poisoning.

The incident flared up again in July after two Britons who lived close to the village of Salisbury become violently ill from the same nerve agent. Dawn Sturgess, 44, died due to exposure.

While President Donald Trump did expel 60 Russian intelligence officers and closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle following the poison attack, the United States did not officially punish the Russian government.

In a letter to the President in July, Republican senator and House Foreign Relations Committee chair Ed Royce rebuked the administration for its failure to act against Russia’s alleged involvement in the attack on UK soil.

“Your compliance with the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 is critical to showing Putin that we are serious about challenging his deadly acts, as well as his ongoing attacks on our democracy,” he wrote.

The sanctions will come in two waves. NBC reports the first round limits exports and financing to Russia, as well as overlapping with restrictions already in place such as selling arms. Unless Russia can then provide “reliable assurances” they will not use chemical weapons again and allow inspections from the United Nations, a second round of sanctions will start in three months. These harsher penalties will likely see the downgrading of diplomatic relations as well as the severance of nearly all exports and imports.

As published in Russia Reports in June, the country has faced economic sanctions from the majority of Western nations following its annexation of Crimea in 2014. Further sanctions followed after accusations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US Presidential election.

Fresh sanctions were then laid by the European Union against six people in July for their involvement in the construction of a bridge which connects Russia to the disputed territory of Crimea, Ukraine.

Russian Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state news agency Tass the new sanctions would be analyzed and responded to in due course.

“At the moment, we need to understand what form the new restrictions will take and what actions they will require from Russia,” he said.

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