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US Announces New Sanctions on Russia in Poisoning

FILE - Inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrive to begin work at the scene of a nerve agent attack on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal, Salisbury, Britain, March 21, 2018.

A new round of sanctions were imposed on Moscow Saturday by the United States over the 2018 poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

Russian spies have been blamed for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury in March 2018 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 investigators believe was used to carry the Novichok.

Sanctions take effect mid-August

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

The U.S. will also limit the export of goods and technology to Russia that could be used in the country’s chemical and biological arms programs, 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 Aug. 19, and will remain in place for a minimum 12 months, according to the U.S. State Department.

Chemical weapon

The Salisbury attack, the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, caused an international outcry and prompted a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western nations including the U.S.

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

However the pair have never been tried, and Lugovoi has since become a lawmaker in Russia.

Moscow denies involvement in the poisoning and has offered numerous and varied alternative explanations and counter-accusations.

EU sanctions

In January the European Union imposed chemical weapons sanctions on nine Russian and Syrian officials, including the chief of the 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.