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US announces sanctions on Russia over nerve agent attack in UK

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The United States announced on Wednesday its intention to impose new economic sanctions on Russia, after blaming Moscow for the attack with the Novitchok nervous agent in March in the United Kingdom.

The State Department has reported that the sanctions are in response to the “use of a nervous agent ‘Novichok’ in an attempt to assassinate the UK citizen Serguei Skripal,” former Russian double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, in March.

“The government of the Russian Federation has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

The new sanctions, which have not been detailed, will take effect after a 15-day notification period, Nauert said.

Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in early March in Salisbury, South West England, with the neurotoxic agent Novichok, an attempted murder that the British government attributed to Russia, which in turn categorically refutes the prosecution.

The case sparked a serious diplomatic crisis between Russians and Westerners, which gave rise to cross-expulsions of diplomats.

Hospitalized in critical condition, Seguei and Yulia Skripal were able to survive after several weeks of intensive care.

Sergei Skripal, the former spymaster of the Russian Army, was convicted in 2006 of high treason, accused of selling information to British services. After benefiting in 2010 from an exchange of spies between Moscow, London and Washington, he decided to settle in England.

In addition to the Skripal, a couple of Britons were poisoned on June 30 after having contact with Novichok contained in a jar. The woman, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died, but her companion, Charlie Rowley, survived.

On Tuesday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague, reported that London had asked it to increase its technical assistance in the case of the neurotoxic agent Novichok.

At London’s request, the OPCW sent a team in July to “independently determine the nature” of the substance that caused the death of a person in England.

Novichok nerve agents are a series of little known and highly dangerous toxins developed by Soviet scientists in the late 1970s, the last period of the Cold War. This substance, which can lead to death, acts on the nervous system, generating loss of muscle control, spasms and paralysis.

 
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