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U.S. hits Russian Federation with sanctions over nerve agent attack in Britain

10 August 2018

Unless Russia agrees within 90 days to stop all use of chemical weapons and permit inspections to confirm their elimination, the law requires the United States to choose from a range of additional measures, including withdrawal of USA support for global loans and US bank loans, prohibition of landing rights for Russian airlines, and suspension of diplomatic relations.

FILE - In this March 13, 2018, file photo, police officers guard a cordon around a police tent covering a supermarket auto park pay machine near the spot where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found critically ill following exposure to the Russian-developed nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury, England.

Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former colonel in the Russian army, said the State Department's move looked like the latest salvo in what he called a hybrid war.

"We are being threatened with further escalation of sanctions pressure", she said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to reporters on a conference call, said the U.S. move was "absolutely unfriendly".

He went on to say the sanctions "contravene worldwide law".

The attack prompted an initial wave of diplomatic expulsions between U.S. -Britain allies and Russia - including the tit-for-tat exit of 60 Russian and U.S. diplomats in March.

The sanctions came as an eagerly-watched contest for a previously safe Republican seat in the United States congress went to the wire, leading to speculation that voters were turning against Donald Trump and could punish the Republican Party at mid-term elections.

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.

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The UK blames Russia, but the Russian government strongly denies any involvement.

The US administration is obliged to act, under legislation, if chemical or biological weapons have been used.

Although the sanctions will not go into effect until August 22, they already are affecting the Russian economy.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday that Moscow was starting to work on retaliatory measures after the United States announced a new round of sanctions against Moscow.

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.

He criticized the USA decision to link the sanctions to the British nerve agent case, an incident the Kremlin has long cast as a Western plot to damage its reputation and provide a pretext for more sanctions. Waivers have been issued for foreign assistance and space flight activities, while commercial passenger aviation and other commercial goods for civilian use will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to the official who briefed reporters.

Trump's administration's new sanctions though throw off his recent attempts at outreach to the Kremlin that was on display at his meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month.

The US already has sanctions in place against Russian Federation, in retaliation for its annexation of Crimea and allegations of interference in the 2016 election.

Paul said the letter "emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges".

U.S. hits Russian Federation with sanctions over nerve agent attack in Britain