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10 August 2018, 02:45 | Joann Bryant
TARGETED Sergei and Yulia Skripal were exposed to Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok
A terse release from the State Department said that the United States had determined Russian responsibility for the attack in Salisbury, England - a British conclusion the administration had already accepted - under a 1991 USA law on biological and chemical weapons use that requires the president to impose sanctions.
The 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act "requires the president to make a determination with respect to whether a country has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of global law or has used lethalchemical or biological weapons against its own nationals, " the State Department said.
She accused Washington of picking the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, as a "contrived excuse" for sanctions.
"In practice this will mean we are imposing a "presumption of denial" upon export licences for USA -origin national security-sensitive goods and technology to any Russian state-owned or state-funded enterprise", the official said in a conference call with reporters.
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The sanctions are mandated under the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which says the USA 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.
New sanctions proposals in U.S. Congress include legislation targeting Russia's state-controlled banks and freezing their operations in dollars - a move that would deal a heavy blow to the Russian economy.
Russia's prime minister sternly warned the United States on Friday against ramping up sanctions, saying that Moscow will retaliate with economic, political and unspecified "other" means.
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 Russian Federation".
The announcement of sanctionscaused Russian stock markets to drop dramatically on opening and the ruble reached its lowest point since November 2016.
The sanctions are expected to take effect later this month.
This week, Britain's the Guardian newspaper reported London is preparing to askMoscow to extradite two Russian citizens suspected of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack. It would also impose mandatory sanctions on individuals found to have taken part in the interference. In early April, just before the first tough round of US sanctions in response to Russian "worldwide malign activity" was announced, the ruble stood at roughly 58 to the dollar.
A United Kingdom investigation has already blamed Russian Federation for the attack, resulting in the expulsion of spies from multiple allies including the US.
It's left the Russian rouble at a two year low and the Kremlin unhappy after last month's Helsinki summit between Trump and Putin suggested improving relations between the powers.
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