In this Nov 30, 2017 photo, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, DC. (MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
WASHINGTON - As the diplomatic brawl over Russia's alleged poison attack of an ex-spy and his daughter remains unsolved, the US State Department said on Wednesday that the country will impose new sanctions on Russia over the case.
Following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register, expected on or around August 22, 2018
Heather Nauert, Spokesperson, State Department, United States
The sanctions will target exports of US national security equipment and products to Russia.
According to a statement issued by State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, Washington on Monday determined that the Russian government had "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals," referring to British citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal.
Nauert also accused Moscow of using a "Novichok" nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate them.
The US action was made under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act), she said.
"Following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register, expected on or around August 22, 2018," she added.
Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, aged 66, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in Britain's southwestern city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain claimed the pair was exposed to a nerve agent and holds Russia responsible, while the Russian government has denied any involvement in it.
Kremlin said the US decision to impose new sanctions on Russia is an unfriendly move and inconsistent with the constructive atmosphere created after the recent Putin-Trump meeting.
"We consider it absolutely unacceptable to link the new restrictive measures that we still consider illegal to the Salisbury case," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a daily briefing Thursday.
"We once again most emphatically reject any accusations in the context of a possible involvement of the Russian state in what happened in Salisbury," he added.
Russia's embassy in the United States called new US sanctions "draconian" and said the reason for the new restrictions were far-fetched.
"We grew accustomed to not hearing any facts or evidence," the embassy said in a statement.
The US announcement fuelled already worsening investor sentiment about the possible effect of more US sanctions on Russian assets and the rouble slid by over 1 percent on Thursday against the dollar, a day after falling towards its lowest level in nearly two years.
In this Feb 27, 2018 file grab taken from CCTV video provided by ITN, former spy Sergei Skripal shops at a store in Salisbury, England. (ITN VIA AP, FILE)
The Russian embassy said Moscow continued to advocate for an open and transparent investigation into the poisoning.
European countries and the United States expelled 100 Russian diplomats after the attack, in the strongest action by President Donald Trump against Russia since he came to office.
The new US sanctions would cover sensitive national-security controlled goods, a senior State Department official told reporters.
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 official said a second batch of "more draconian" sanctions would be imposed after 90 days unless Russia gave "reliable assurances" it would no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups.