By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The U.S. State Department has detailed new sanctions imposed on Russia for its alleged involvement in the March 2018 near-fatal nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain.
“Pursuant to the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act), the United States is announcing a second round of sanctions on Russia for its use of a ‘novichok’ nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom on March 4, 2018,” the State Department said in a statement on August 3.
“This act endangered thousands of lives in Salisbury and Amesbury, and caused the hospitalization of the Skripals, a British police officer, and two civilians, one of whom subsequently died from her exposure,” it added.
The measures will take effect following a 15-day congressional notification period and remain in place for a minimum of 12 months, the State Department said.
The statement came a few hours after President Donald Trump said Washington was imposing new sanctions on Russia, a move Moscow called “regrettable” and said would damage bilateral ties.
Trump signed an executive order on August 1 imposing the second set of sanctions against Moscow as mandated under CBW after Russia’s involvement in the use of the nerve agent novichok in the attack was determined.
The British foreign minister, Dominic Raab, said his government welcomed the U.S. move to increase the pressure “in response to Russia’s use of a deadly nerve agent in Salisbury.”
“Continued global response shows we will not stand & watch these horrific weapons be used without consequences,” he wrote.
The State Department said the sanctions will include “U.S. opposition to the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance to Russia by international financial institutions, such as the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.”
Also “a prohibition on U.S. banks from participating in the primary market for non-ruble denominated Russian sovereign debt and lending non-ruble denominated funds to the Russian government.”
And, “the addition of export licensing restrictions on Department of Commerce-controlled goods and technology.”
Economists said the new sanctions won’t have much of an impact as Russia has foreign currency and gold reserves exceeding $500 billion, precluding the need for borrowing.
“The sanctions themselves are relatively lenient and may prove the lesser of evils if they serve to prevent harsher sanctions against Russian sovereign debt, etc., that U.S. senators are trying to push through Congress,” Moscow-based Alfa Bank said in a statement.
The State Department determined in August 2018 that Russia violated the 1991 CBW Act in the Skripal case, and imposed a first round of sanctions targeting foreign aid, the sale of defense and security goods, and U.S. government loans for exports to Russia.
The same 1991 law requires the president to impose a second round of sanctions if he cannot determine whether the country in question has stopped using chemical weapons within three months.
Moscow strongly denies it was behind the poisoning, which has worsened already severely strained ties between Russia and the West.
The Skripal poisoning lead to additional U.S. and European Union sanctions on Moscow and to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions of Russian and Western officials.
Trump had stalled on implementing the restrictive measures and has refrained in general from publicly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The two spoke by phone on July 31 and discussed the widespread forest fires in Russia and bilateral trade relations.
Trump signed the executive order after a bipartisan letter sent to the White House earlier this week by leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee urged him to take action.
The letter said that “well over a year has passed since the [Skripal] attack,” yet the “CBW Act mandated the second round of sanctions to be imposed within three months…Therefore we urge you to take immediate action to hold Russia accountable for its blatant use of a chemical weapon in Europe.”