INTERNATIONAL

U.S. hits Russia with new sanctions

Protective measures:A file photo of personnel searching a van in Winterslow, following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.AP

Protective measures:A file photo of personnel searching a van in Winterslow, following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.AP  

The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would soon impose new sanctions against Russia in response to the attempted assassination in March of a former Russian spy living in England and his daughter.

Under the terms of the sanctions, any attempt by a U.S. company to obtain an export licence to sell anything with a potential national security purpose — gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits and testing and calibration equipment — will be automatically denied. Exporters can attempt to prove that the goods will be used for legitimate purposes, but that is a tough hurdle to clear.

An administration official described the list of affected items as “enormously elaborate”, but outside experts said the actual amount of exports involved is fairly small because the Obama administration already banned exports to Russia that could have military purposes.

Tougher measures are called for in the legislation, however, if Russia fails to prove that it is no longer using chemical weapons.

Important step

“Today’s step is an important but moderate set of sanctions,” said Peter Harrell, a sanctions official in the Obama administration, adding that further sanctions expected in three months “could be among the most severe yet, but could also be quite modest, depending on where the Trump administration wants to go.”

The sanctions were imposed under the provisions of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which mandates that once the government has determined that a country has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or even made “substantial preparations” to do so, sanctions must be imposed.

British officials had declared that Russia was to blame for the attempted poisoning of Sergei V. Skripal, a British citizen, and his daughter Yulia, in large part because of the obscure poison involved. It was one of a strain of nerve agents known as Novichok that they say is kept under tight control by the Russian authorities.

The Trump administration agreed with the determination by the British government that set in motion the sanctions.NY Times

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