US slaps fresh sanctions on Russia over Skripal affair

Russia, meanwhile, accuses US of using its relationship as political football ahead of presidential elections.

    The Skripal poisoning caused an international outcry, straining relations between Russia and several Western countries [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]
    The Skripal poisoning caused an international outcry, straining relations between Russia and several Western countries [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

    The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on Russia over the 2018 poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal, an attack which took place in the United Kingdom.

    Washington will oppose "the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance to Russia" by financial institutions and put limits on US banks from purchasing Russian sovereign debt, US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement on Saturday.

    The US will also limit the export of goods and technology to Russia that could be used in the country's chemical and biological arms programmes, Ortagus said.

    She added that the measures could prevent Russia from accessing "billions of dollars of bilateral commercial activity with the United States".

    The sanctions will come into effect following a 15-day congressional notification period - around August 15 - and will remain in place for a minimum of 12 months, according to the State Department.

    Last year, the US imposed an initial batch of sanctions against Russia over the attack on Skripal, which included bans on arms sales and exports of national security-sensitive goods and the termination of most US assistance to Russia.

    Moscow said the new sanctions would damage already strained US-Russia ties.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russia's state-owned RT TV he regretted that the relationship between the two countries has become a political football in the US.

    He added that Moscow linked the sanctions to the upcoming presidential elections in the US and said Moscow was ready to defend itself from any negative consequences caused by the new restrictions. 

    Skripal incident

    Russian spies were blamed for poisoning Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury, in March last year, using the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok.

    The two survived the attack but a British woman later died after her partner picked up a discarded perfume bottle that investigators believed was used to carry the Novichok.

    The attack - the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II - led to international outcry and prompted the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western nations, including the US.

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    London said the attempted assassination was "almost certainly" approved by Moscow and that Russians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were behind the killing.

    Moscow denies any involvement in the poisoning and has offered several alternative explanations and counter-accusations.

    Lugovoi and Kovtun have never been tried and the former has since become a politician in Russia.

    In January, the European Union imposed chemical weapons sanctions on nine Russian and Syrian officials, including the chief of Russia's powerful GRU military intelligence agency.

    Skripal, a former officer with the GRU, was found guilty in 2006 of "high treason" before being traded in a spy exchange between Moscow, London and Washington.

    Headlines and hyperbole: Covering the Sergei Skripal story

    The Listening Post

    Headlines and hyperbole: Covering the Sergei Skripal story

    SOURCE: News agencies