USA imposes sanctions on Russian Federation over Skripal poisonings in Salisbury

Thursday, 09 Aug, 2018

The Russian rouble has slumped to its lowest level since November 2016, hours after the U.S. announced new sanctions because of the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

The surprise measures were announced by the State Department, which said that the Kremlin "has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of global law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals".

The State Department said Wednesday that the USA will slap Russian Federation with sanctions for using a military-grade nerve agent in an attack on United Kingdom citizen and former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office.

British officials have told reporters they have identified at least two suspects in the Skripal attack.

The newspaper Kommersant has published a full draft of the proposed "Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act", which demands a U.S. investigation into Vladimir Putin's personal wealth and whether Russia sponsors terrorism, and would impose a ban on U.S. citizens buying Russian sovereign debt, though the U.S. Treasury publicly opposed this idea in February, warning that it would disrupt the market broadly.

Russia's embassy in the United States called new U.S. sanctions draconian and said the reason for the new restrictions - allegations it poisoned a former spy and his daughter in Britain - were far-fetched.

Although the USA joined European countries in publicly blaming Moscow within days of the attack, the Trump administration never issued a formal triggering of sanctions under its decades-old U.S. law on chemical weapons. They pulled through after weeks in a hospital. That could include the US withdrawing support for worldwide loans and USA bank loans, blocking Russian airlines from landing in the USA, and suspending diplomatic relations.

On June 30, a British couple were poisoned by Novichok in a nearby town - 44-year-old mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess subsequently died.

The sanctions came as an eagerly-watched contest for a previously safe Republican seat in the United States congress went to the wire, leading to speculation that voters were turning against Donald Trump and could punish the Republican Party at mid-term elections.

The sanctions added to pressure on the ruble that began earlier in the day, when Russian media published the full text of a separate USA bill seeking "crushing sanctions" for election meddling.

The White House has not said whether the poisonings came up during his meeting with Putin.