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US to impose new sanctions on Russia for nerve-agent attack

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The Trump Administration said it would impose new sanctions against Russia as punishment for its use of a nerve agent in an attempt last March to assassinate British citizen and ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, reported New Zealand Herald.

A terse release from the State Department said that the United States had determined Russian responsibility for the attack in Salisbury, England — a British conclusion the Administration had already accepted — under a 1991 US law on biological and chemical weapons use that requires the president to impose sanctions.

Russia has denied responsibility for the attack.

A State Department official said the sanctions could have a significant impact on trade with Russia.

They are structured to fall in two halves. The first part includes a prohibition of licenses on sending some goods to Russia, such as electronic devices. It will have limited impact, since it replicates restrictions already on the books.

But if Russia does not agree to stop using chemical and biological weapons within 90 days and agree to let UN monitors conduct inspections, a second, more punishing round of sanctions kicks in.

It would cut off almost all trade between the two countries, and could include the suspension of Aeroflot flights into the United States.

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The US is imposing new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK. The measures are scheduled to go into effect on or around August 22, according to the State Department, reported Russia Today.

"The United States...determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) that the government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Wednesday.

A State Department official told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday that Washington "informed them (Russia) this afternoon" about the sanctions, Sputnik reported.

The official said the US still wants to maintain relations with Moscow, despite the new sanctions. "We are tough on Russia, at the same time we are quite committed to working to maintain relations because there are important things at stake here," they said.

The State Department's announcement comes after officials told NBC News that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had signed off on a determination that once again accused Russia of poisoning Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK, in March, claiming it violated international law. This comes despite there being zero evidence suggesting Moscow was behind the attack. That determination triggered new sanctions on Russia, according to NBC.

Western countries have been quick to place blame on Moscow over the poisoning, disregarding the absence of proof that would implicate the Kremlin in the crime. Russia has denied having any part in the attack and has offered its full cooperation in the investigation.

The first tranche of sanctions would reportedly ban licenses for the export of sensitive national security goods to Russia, the NBC report said. In the past, such exports are said to have included items like electronic devices and components, as well as test and calibration equipment for avionics. These kinds of exports have previously been allowed on a case-by-case basis.

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Reporter: Denes Osvalt
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Category: Politics
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