The Government has welcomed new US sanctions on Russia for using a military grade nerve agent on a former spy in Salisbury.
The US State Department issued a formal determination that Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok in the Wiltshire town in March.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said it had been determined that Russia ‘has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals’.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘The UK welcomes this further action by our US allies.
‘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 behaviour will not go unchallenged.’
New sanctions are expected to come into effect on or around August 22 following a 15-day Congressional notification period.
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According to US media reports, the new measures include a ban on granting licenses to export sensitive national security goods to Russia.
A second round – kicking in three months later unless Russia provides ‘reliable assurances’ it will not use chemical weapons again and agrees to UN inspections – could include downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending flights to the US by state airline Aeroflot and cutting off many exports and imports.
Britain had already accused Russia of being behind the attack, which the Kremlin vehemently denies.
In response to the US announcement, the Russian Embassy in the US issued a statement referring to ‘far-fetched accusations’ and saying Russian officials had yet to hear any facts or evidence and that the US had refused to answer questions.
Russia, however, again tried to throw the spotlight on the Government’s defence laboratory in Porton Down.
In a series of tweets, Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “As Russians suffered in #Salisbury, it is principally important for us that the British authorities conduct a truly independent, unbiased & transparent investigation into both incidents. Russian law enforcement agencies are ready to provide the necessary assistance.
“The #PortonDown chemical laboratory should remain in the focus of investigations. We insist that the British authorities disclose data on the lab’s work to synthesise chemical warfare agents, incl. the gas labelled #Novichok in the West | #SkripalCase #Salisbury.”
Russia has also been blamed for the death of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess and the poisoning of her partner Charlie Rowley, who are believed to have come into contact with Novichok discarded by the Skripals’ attackers