Russia’s Embassy in Washington on Thursday described new U.S. sanctions over claims Moscow poisoned one of its former spies and his daughter in Britain as “draconian” and the case against it as “far-fetched” and lacking “any facts or evidence.”
Under pressure from Congress, President Donald Trump’s administration said Wednesday it would impose fresh sanctions on Russia for its involvement in the alleged attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal, 67, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33.
The pair were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, Britain, in March. The sanctions come amid criticism of Trump for appearing to side with Russia over his own intelligence agencies on the question of Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election.
Investigators determined the Skripals were poisoned by a Russian-made military-grade nerve agent called Novichok. They were taken to the hospital in critical condition and have since been released. Three months after the attack, exposure to the nerve agent was blamed for the death of Dawn Sturgess, 44, a mother-of-three from Salisbury. Her partner was also exposed to the chemical but released from hospital in late July. Police believe the couple accidentally found a discarded bottle containing the nerve agent.
Russia has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack.
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“We continue to strongly stand for an open and transparent investigation of the crime committed in Salisbury and for bringing the culprits to justice,” Russia’s embassy said in a statement published on its Facebook page on Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov followed that up by telling reporters in Moscow that is considered the sanctions to be “categorically unacceptable.”
The State Department announced Wednesday it had determined the Russian government had “used chemical or biological weapons” in violation of international law. That finding triggers automatic sanctions under a 1991 law passed by Congress, the Chemical and Biological Weapons and Warfare Elimination Act.
The administration’s announcement came after Rep. Ed Royce of California, the GOP chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, called on the administration to hold Russia accountable for the Skripals’ poisonings and publicly chastised the president for not acting more quickly on the matter.
“Your findings were due to the committee within 60 days,” Royce wrote in a July 26 letter to Trump. “Ninety-three days have now passed since my request, yet we have not received the statutorily required determination.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday the administration would impose the sanctions later this month, on or around August 22.
The sanctions will limit Russia’s ability to purchase sensitive national security goods from the U.S., such as engines, circuits and other items. They come amid worsening investor sentiment about the possible effect of more U.S. sanctions on Russian assets. Russia’s currency the rouble slid by over 1 percent on Thursday against the dollar.
Kim Hjelmgaard reported from London.
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