It’s been confirmed the use of Russian-developed nerve agent Novichok was used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. This animation shows how nerve agents attack the nervous system. (March 13)
WASHINGTON – Under pressure from Congress, the Trump administration said Wednesday it would impose new sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia Skripal.
The pair were found unconscious on a bench after they came into contact with a Novichok nerve agent. They were taken to the hospital in critical condition and have since been released.
British officials have blamed Russia for the poisonings. Russia has denied any involvement.
The State Department announced Wednesday it had determined the Russian government had “used chemical or biological weapons” in violation of international law. That finding triggers automatic sanctions under a 1991 law passed by Congress, the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.
The administration’s announcement came after demands from the GOP chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ed Royce of California. Royce called on the administration to hold Russia accountable for the Skripal poisonings and he publicly chastised the president for not acting more quickly on the matter.
“Your findings were due to the committee within 60 days,” Royce wrote in a July 26 letter to Trump. “Ninety-three days have now passed since my request, yet we have not received the statutorily required determination.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday the administration would impose the sanctions later this month.
The sanctions will limit Russia’s ability to purchase sensitive national security goods from the United States, such as engines, circuits and other items.
Right now, such purchases are approved on a case-by-case basis. Those purchases will now be denied, through there will be some exceptions for items related to the International Space Station and commercial flight safety.
If Russia does not provide reliable assurances that it is no longer using chemical or biological weapons and allow on-site inspections, the Trump administration will be required to impose a second round of harsher penalties under the 1991 law.
Sergei Skirpal was jailed in Russia for passing state secrets to Britain before he was released in a spy swap and moved to Salisbury, England. He and his daughter were poisoned March 4.
Two other British citizens, Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, were also exposed to the Novichok nerve agent last month, about 10 miles from Salisbury. Sturgess, a mother of three, died a week after coming in contact with the deadly substance.
British authorities do not believe Rowley and Sturgess were deliberately targeted. But they do believe the Skirpals were.
“The use of chemical weapons anywhere is barbaric and inhumane,” British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said in July.
“The decision taken by the Russian government to deploy these in Salisbury on 4 March was reckless and callous. There is no plausible alternative explanation to the events in March other than that the Russian state was responsible,” he said.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had nothing to do with either incident.
“Russia has categorically denied and continues to categorically deny the possibility of any kind of involvement to what was happening there,” Peskov told reporters.
Wednesday’s action was not the Trump administration’s first response to the poisonings. Soon after Britain accused Russia of being behind the attack on the Skripals, the U.S. expelled 60 Russians and closed the government’s consulate in Seattle.
Contributing: Jane Onyanga-Omara
Read or Share this story: https://usat.ly/2nnxJFP