U.S. strongly condemns Russia's poisoning of former spy: White House

U.S. strongly condemns Russia's poisoning of former spy: White House

The State Department announced its intention Wednesday of implementing new sanctions on Moscow in response to its involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this year in Salisbury, U.K., using a chemical agent.

They are aimed at punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of global law", department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

Those sanctions will include the presumed denial of export licenses for Russian Federation to purchase many items with national security implications, according to a senior State Department official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to do so by name.

But Congress has been pushing for such a decision and now the state department has confirmed Russia's actions contravened 1991 USA legislation on the use of chemical weapons.

A former Defense Department official, Mark Simakovsky, said Wednesday that a second tranche would target Russian exports to the U.S. and theoretically could include restrictions on flights by the state airline Aeroflot as well as a downgrade of diplomatic relations.

The nerve agent was found on the front door of Skripal's home.

Heightened concern spurred by the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, England is prompting USA national security officials to consider seriously the prospect of a similar attack, current and former officials said.

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.

On Friday, the White House strongly condemned the poisoning incident, which a spokesman for Trump's National Security Council called "a reckless display of contempt for the universally held norm against chemical weapons".

The warning, from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, reflects Russian fears over the impact of new restrictions on its economy and assets, including the rouble which has lost almost six percent of its value this week on sanctions jitters.

In April 2018, the Trump administration imposed sanctions on seven of Russia's richest oligarchs as well as 17 top government officials, to put pressure on President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, in the British town of Salisbury in March.

"The mandatory sanctions that follow this determination are key to increasing pressure on Russian Federation".

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

There would, however, be exemptions for space flight activities, government space cooperation, and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, which would be reviewed on a case by case basis, the official added.

The United Kingdom blamed Russia for the attack, resulting in the expulsion of 150 Russian diplomats from the U.K., USA and other allies.

They were seriously ill but later made a full recovery after spending several weeks in hospital.