US hits Russia with Skripal sanctions
The US has imposed further sanctions on Russia over the 2018 poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.
The measures include “the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance to Russia” by banks and other financial bodies, like the International Monetary Fund, and limits on US banks from purchasing Russian state debt, said US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus.
American banks would also be barred from participating in the primary market for non-ruble bonds issued by the Russian authorities.
The US will also limit any goods or technology that could be used in Russian chemical and biological arms programmes, she said.
The measures were imposed under the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.
The sanctions could prevent Russia from accessing “billions of dollars of bilateral commercial activity with the United States”, Washington said.
The measures are due to last a year.
Frants Klintsevich of the Russian upper house’s defence and security committee said the extended sanctions would make any possibility of normalising relations “even more hypothetical”.
“They are the latest attack on international relations in general and on strategic stability in the world,” the Kremlin ally added.
After the attack on Skripal, the US banned arms sales and other sensitive goods and cancelled most US assistance to Russia.
The Kremlin said the sanctions would damage already strained bilateral ties.
The Skripal attack was labelled the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since the Second World War.
The former double agent and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned with the Russian military-grade nerve agent Novichok. They have since recovered but a UK civilian later died. Their current whereabouts are being kept secret.
The UK said the attempted assassination was “almost certainly” approved by Russia and Russians Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun were behind the killing.
Moscow denied the allegations.
Lugovoi and Kovtun have not been charged and Lugovoi is now a Russian politician.
More than 20 countries expelled Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK. The US ordered 60 diplomats to leave and closed Russia’s consulate in Seattle.
Skripal, a former officer in Russia’s powerful GRU military intelligence agency, was found guilty in 2006 of “high treason” before being traded in a spy exchange with the UK and US.
Undesirable real estate: Sergei Skripal’s former home in Salisbury. Picture credit: Wikimedia