The State Department announced new sanctions on Russia Wednesday for the poisoning a double agent on British soil. The department also officially declared that it is the view of the U.S. that Russia “used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law.”
What's the story?
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert released a news release Wednesday that said:
Following the use of a “Novichok” nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal, the United States, on August 6, 2018, determined under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act) that the Government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.
It also stated that the sanctions would begin Aug. 22, after a “15-day Congressional notification period.”
These new sanctions will come in two waves, with the second wave taking effect only if Russia refuses to agree to stop using chemical or biological weapons or refuses to allow the United Nations to conduct inspections. While the first wave of sanctions would be relatively light and involve licensing, the second round would target a substantial amount of the trade between the two nations.
What are these sanctions for again?
On March 4, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned by a nerve agent that British authorities later determined was Russian-made Novichok. Novichok had been developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Skripal was a former colonel in the Russian Army who defected and supplied information to British intelligence. He was later discovered by the Russians, and traded to the U.S. in a high-profile spy swap. He moved to the United Kingdom in 2010.
After announcing that the poison used was Novichok, British Prime Minister Theresa May demanded that the Russian government explain how a Soviet-made nerve agent ended up on British soil. The Russian government responded by openly mocking May and the British investigators, and even accusing them of fabricating the entire thing.
In March, the U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats in solidarity with the United Kingdom, and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. At the time, the U.K. had said only that it was “likely” that the Russians were behind the attack. The Russian government continues to deny that it had any involvement.