Russia to implement countermeasures to the new US sanctions

Moscow condemned new round of US sanctions as illegal, promises to fire back

Photo: EPA Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry`s spokeswoman.

Russia's government denounced as "unacceptable" and "illegal" the latest US sanctions against Moscow that the State Department announced yesterday under a chemical and biological warfare law.

"Once again we deny in the strongest terms the accusations about the possible connection of the Russian state to what happened in Salisbury. This is out of the question. Russia did not and does not have, and could not have, any connection to the use of chemical weapons," President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thusday, adding that the sanctions are “absolutely unlawful and don’t conform to international law"

Hours later, as the value of the ruble plunged to two-year lows and the Russian stock market fell, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also slammed the new US sanctions and warned Moscow would "work on developing retaliatory measures" to them, without providing any detail as to what those countermeasures might be.

Zakharova also claimed Washington was "knowingly presenting demands that are unacceptable to us" as conditions for the sanctions to be lifted.

"We are being threatened with further escalation of sanctions pressure. In this way, the US is consciously taking the path of further heightening of tensions in bilateral relations that have already been brought practically to zero by their efforts," she added.

As Europost reminds, US State Department said Wednesday that the new sanctions are in compliance with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 and will go into effect around 22 August. They aim to deny Russian state-owned and state-funded enterprises access to any national-security-sensitive products and technologies, originating in the US. Moreover, Washington will prohibit Russia from receiving US weapons or military technology as well as financial assistance. As american officials noted Wednesday, the sanctions could impact potentially a very great sweep of the Russian economy, in the range of "hundreds of millions of dollars", since the firms affected account for 70 percent of the Russian economy and 40 percent of its workforce

Russia could also be subjected to a second tranche of sanctions that would be far "more draconian" than the first round if it refuses to provide “reliable” evidence that it is no longer using chemical/ biological weapons and allow on-site UN chemical inspections. They would go in effect 90 days after the first ones.
Such sanctions under this 1991 law have been applied on previous occasions against Syria for its 2013 use of chemical weapons and against North Korea for its use of VX nerve agent in a Malaysian airport during the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half brother. This time the penalties follow a nerve agent attack in March against an ex-double agent and his daughter. 

Sergej Skripal was a double agent, working for years with Russian intelligence while secretly passing information to British authorities. He was convicted of espionage in Russia but released in a 2010 prisoner exchange and has lived in the UK since then. In early March, however, he and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting from Russia, were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in southern England.

British authorities later determined that Skripal and his daughter have been victims of an the attack, carried out using Novichok - a nerve agent developed in Russia during the Cold War. Even though both have been released from hospital months after the poisoning, the case caused new lows in the relations between Russia and the West. More than 20 countries expelled Russian envoys in solidarity with the UK, including the US, where 60 diplomats were ordered to leave the country and the Russian consulate general in Seattle was closed.

Last month, just when tensions have finally subsided, a British couple - Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley - also came in contact with Novichok in the same general area where the Skripals were poisoned, with Sturgess later dying. 

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