Sun, 21 Oct 2018

Russia said Thursday it plans to retaliate against the United States for imposing sanctions against it in connection with the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.

Moscow called the U.S. sanctions illegal. Russia said it had nothing to do with the March incident involving Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, who were found slumped over on a bench and unconscious in the British city of Salisbury. They were sickened by Novichok - a Soviet-era nerve agent. Both survived but spent weeks in a hospital.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the U.S. was 'knowingly presenting demands that are unacceptable to us. We are being threatened with further escalation of sanctions pressure.'

'In this way,' she contended, 'the U.S. 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 said the incident in Britain was a 'contrived excuse' for the U.S. to impose sanctions and that Washington was trying to use the 'anti-Russian topic as a way to continue demonizing Russia' and make it appear that Moscow is not fulfilling its international obligations.

The U.S. State Department announced the sanctions Wednesday, saying Russia broke international law by using a lethal nerve agent against its own nationals. The U.S. measures are set to take effect August 22 and generally involve U.S. licenses for exporting sensitive national security goods to Russia, such as electronics.

FILE - A police tent covers the spot in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018, where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill.

'Absolutely unlawful'

The Kremlin blasted the move as 'unacceptable.'

'The restrictions are absolutely unlawful and don't conform to international law,' Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

The Russian embassy in Washington said Wednesday the sanctions are based on 'far-fetched accusations' and that Russia supports a transparent investigation of what happened.

'We grew accustomed to not hearing any facts or evidence,' the embassy said in a statement.

A senior State Department official said Wednesday that Russia could face another round of 'more Draconian' sanctions within 90 days unless it provides 'reliable assurances' it is no longer using chemical or biological weapons.

The sanctions announced Wednesday are mandatory, triggered by a 1991 congressional law called the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act.

The British Foreign Office said it welcomes the U.S. sanctions.

'The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behavior will not go unchallenged,' it said in a statement.

Russia also denied having anything to do with the June poisoning of a British couple near Salisbury who picked up a bottle that also contained Novichok, which left 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess dead. Her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, survived.

British officials have told reporters they have identified at least two suspects in the Skripal attack. Newspaper reports say the two are in Russia, and Britain is getting ready to ask for their extradition.

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