The U.S. on Wednesday cleared the way for a new round of sanctions against Russia after the State Department formally concluded that Moscow violated the international ban on chemical weapons with a nerve agent attack this year against a former Soviet spy and his daughter.
That determination — which Congress had been pushing the Trump administration to make since March — triggers mandatory sanctions under a 1991 U.S. law, L.A. Times reports.
The State Department said the sanctions were in response to “the use of a ‘Novichok’ nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal” — who was a double agent — and his daughter Yulia in March.
Novichok is a series of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union and Russia between 1971 and 1993. Russian scientists who developed the agents claim they are the deadliest nerve agents ever made, with some variants possibly five to eight times more potent than VX, and others up to ten times more potent than soman.
The action is aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin’s government for having “used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The new sanctions were to take effect following a 15-day Congressional notification period, she said.
Another senior State Department official told reporters that the administration decided to impose a “presumption of denial” for the sale to Russia of “national security sensitive” US technologies that require federal government approval.
Such technologies have often been used in items including electronic devices as well as calibration equipment. The exports were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis.
The move could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports to Russia, said the official, who requested anonymity in order to speak about the sanctions.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce, who had pushed months ago for Trump to take action over Russia’s use of banned weapons, applauded the move as “key to increasing pressure on Russia.”
“Vladimir Putin must know that we will not tolerate his deadly acts, or his ongoing attacks on our democratic process. The administration is rightly acting to uphold international bans on the use of chemical weapons. The mandatory sanctions that follow this determination are key to increasing pressure on Russia.” Royce said.
The sanctions are mandated under the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which says the US president shall tighten the penalties within 90 days unless Moscow provides “reliable assurances” that it no longer engages in such activities, and allows on-site inspections by United Nations observers.
Moscow denies that they had any involvement with the chemical attack even though the evidence proves otherwise.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.