US Sanctions Russia Over Claimed UK Nerve Agent Attack

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The Trump administration said Wednesday it would impose more sanctions against Russia as punishment for its use of a nerve agent in an attempt in March to assassinate British citizen and ex-Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Under the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, the president must determine whether a country has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of worldwide law or used "lethal biological weapons against its own nationals", the State Department said.

U.S. sanctions on Russian Federation will target exports of national security-related goods including sectors such as specialised oil and gas technology and some electronics and sensors, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Thursday.

The sanctions stem from a March nerve-agent attack against a former Russian spy in the U.K. The U.S. and Britain have held Russia responsible for the attack.

The State Department's surprise announcement of the new sanctions on Wednesday jolted Moscow, where some politicians and analysts had been hopeful that Putin's meeting with President Trump in Helsinki in July would stabilize U.S.

Police think the novichok was sprayed or smeared on their front doorknob with a perfume bottle.

Russia's delegation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on August 9 accused the West of acting as prosecutor, judge, and executioner.

Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Thursday that the USA has behaved like a "police state, threatening and torturing a suspect to get evidence".

Sturgess, 44, died a week after the exposure.

Trump has not shied away from condemning the Skripal attack, but critics have questioned why it has taken the USA government so long to impose the new sanctions in response.

The White House did not immediately send out a statement on the sanctions.

The Kremlin earlier Thursday called the latest action by the US State Department "unacceptable".

Russian authorities played down the importance of new USA sanctions, saying they have tools to maintain financial stability, after a new round of US penalties sent the rouble plunging to a two-year low.

"This whole accusatory pyramid is being built in the absence of any legal substantiation, but they're still telling us about global law and respect for legal obligations", Zakharova told the Moscow briefing.

The new sanctions come in two tranches.

"The UK welcomes this further action by our US allies".

The U.S. move also triggered a sell-off in Russian government bonds and the dollar-denominated RTS index fell to its lowest since April 11.

The Guardian this week reported the Government is set to submit an extradition request to Moscow for two Russians suspected of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

"Mr. Putin's entire track record shows that he doesn't back down under pressure but, rather, goes the other direction", said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a Moscow think tank that receives state funding.

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