US to impose sanctions against Russia over Salisbury nerve agent attack

Julian Borger — Guardian.co.uk Aug 8, 2018

Forensic investigations at the scene of the crime in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Click to enlarge

Forensic investigations at the scene of the crime in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Click to enlarge

The United States has announced it will impose restrictions on the export of sensitive technology to Russia because of its use of a nerve agent in the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

The state department said the new sanctions would come into effect on 22 August and would be followed by much more sweeping measures, such as suspending diplomatic relations and revoking Aeroflot landing rights, if Russia did not take “remedial” action within 90 days.

Moscow is not expected to agree to the response required by US legislation, which includes opening up Russian scientific and security facilities to international inspections to assess whether it is producing chemical and biological weapons in violation of international law.

“Certainly is really up to Russia to make that decision, whether they meet this criteria,” a senior administration official said. “The second round of sanctions … are in general more draconian than the first round.”

The US has already expelled 60 suspected Russian spies as part of a global response to the March attack in Salisbury against Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence, and his daughter, Yulia, in which a rare and potent Russian-made nerve agent, novichok, was found to have been used.

The Kremlin has vehemently denied British accusations that it orchestrated the attacks. Since the March attack, two other residents from the Salisbury area have been poisoned by exposure to novichok.

Dawn Sturgess died in July after handling a small bottle contaminated with the nerve agent on 30 June. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, was also taken ill after being exposed to the nerve agent.

The new sanctions involve the export of a long list of equipment deemed to be sensitive on national security grounds, including gas turbine engines, integrated circuits, and calibration equipment used in avionics. A US official said that about half of US exports to Russia contained sensitive components. At the moment, such exports are considered on a case-by-case basis. After 22 August, there will be a “presumption of denial”, meaning that the default position will be for such exports to be banned.

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