HOT OFF THE WIRE

Skripal attack: US to sanction Russia over Novichok poisoning

Skripal attack: US to sanction Russia over Novichok poisoning

  • 8 August 2018
Related Topics
  • Russian spy poisoning
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Parts of the city of Salisbury were sealed off after the nerve agent attack

The US is to place sanctions on Russia after determining that it used nerve agent against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK in March.

The move was announced on Wednesday by the US state department.

A UK investigation blamed Russia for the attack, but the Kremlin has strongly denied any involvement.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on 4 March.

They were seriously ill but recovered after spending several weeks in hospital.

The US determined "that the government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals", US state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The sanctions are to take effect on or around 22 August, she added.

  • What happened to the Skripals?
  • Will Russian suspects face UK trial?
  • Who is Sergei Skripal?
  • What are nerve agents and what do they do?

What are the sanctions?

US broadcaster NBC, quoting state department officials, said the initial sanctions were expected to include a ban on granting licences to export sensitive national security goods to Russia.

The state department said that further sanctions would follow within 90 days if Russia did not give assurances that it had stopped the use of chemical weapons.

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in the town of Salisbury

An official said it was only the third time that the US had determined a country had used chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.

Previous occasions were against Syria and against North Korea for the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of leader Kim Jong-un, who died when highly toxic VX nerve agent was rubbed on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport.

Are these the first US sanctions against Russia?

No. In June the US slapped sanctions on five Russian companies and three Russian individuals in response to alleged Russian cyber-attacks on the US.

All are prohibited from any transactions involving the US financial system.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the measures were to counter "malicious actors" working to "increase Russia's offensive cyber-capabilities".

What was the nerve agent?

Following the incident, the British government said the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, of a type developed by Russia, had been used in the attack.

Relations between Russia and the West hit a new low. More than 20 countries expelled Russian envoys in solidarity with the UK, including the US. Washington ordered 60 diplomats to leave and closed the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

Three months after the Salisbury attack, two other people fell ill at a house in Amesbury, about eight miles from the city. Dawn Sturgess later died while her partner, Charlie Rowley, spent three weeks recovering in hospital.

After tests, scientists at the UK's military research lab, Porton Down, found the couple had also been been exposed to Novichok.

Mr Rowley told ITV News he had earlier found a sealed bottle of perfume and gave it to Ms Sturgess, who sprayed the substance on her wrists.