US promises new severe sanctions on Russia

Ruslan Boshirov (top) and Alexander Petrov (above) are said to be the men in an image (right) released by the Metropolitan Police of Britain.
Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov are said to be the men in an image (above) released by the Metropolitan Police of Britain.PHOTO: METROPOLITAN POLICE
Ruslan Boshirov (top) and Alexander Petrov (above) are said to be the men in an image (right) released by the Metropolitan Police of Britain.
Ruslan Boshirov (above) and Alexander Petrov are said to be the men in an image released by the Metropolitan Police of Britain.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Ruslan Boshirov (top) and Alexander Petrov (above) are said to be the men in an image (right) released by the Metropolitan Police of Britain.
Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov (above) are said to be the men in an image released by the Metropolitan Police of Britain.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Plans to impose second round of penalties for alleged Russian nerve-agent attack in Britain

WASHINGTON • The United States is working on a second, more punishing round of sanctions against Russia to be imposed in November for its nerve-agent attack in Britain, a State Department official said.

"We plan to impose a very severe second round of sanctions," Ms Manisha Singh, assistant secretary for the department's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, told Congress on Thursday.

She said it will include "banking sanctions, prohibition on procurement of defence articles, aid money - it's a laundry list of items that will penalise the Russian government".

Russia has not allowed on-site inspections or provided the US with "verifiable reassurance" that it will not use banned chemical weapons again, Ms Singh said.

Members of Congress have complained that President Donald Trump is too slow to impose penalties on Russia as he emphasises improving relations with President Vladimir Putin.

But administration witnesses appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee underscored the prospect of more strife - and more sanctions - over issues including any interference in November's mid-term elections.

Sanctions are required under the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, which requires penalties on countries that use chemical weapons in violation of international law.

The US last month announced new restrictions to punish Mr Putin's government for the March 4 nerve-agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain. That first wave of sanctions took effect on Aug 22.

The initial round of sanctions limits exports to Russia of US goods and technology considered sensitive on national security grounds, including lasers and some specialised oil and gas production technologies.

The action could block hundreds of millions of dollars in exports. Waivers will be allowed for space-flight activities and US foreign assistance, said the State Department.

Russia, which has denied it was behind the attack in Britain, has threatened to retaliate, but stopped short of specific measures pending more details on US plans. The two Russians accused by Britain of carrying out the attack appeared on Russian state TV on Thursday to assert they were just tourists eager to see an ancient English cathedral.

A day after Mr Trump announced an executive order generally threatening financial sanctions if foreign powers interfere in the coming elections, a Treasury Department official also applied that warning to Russia in particular.

US intelligence agencies found that Russia meddled in the 2016 election in an effort to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton and ultimately to help elect Mr Trump, a Republican.

"The message has been sent very clearly by the Treasury Department that there will be consequences and costs... imposed for the intolerable and unacceptable continued efforts to manipulate our electoral processes," said Mr Marshall Billingslea, the Treasury Department's assistant secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes. He also testified at the House committee hearing.

Congress is considering legislation that would make sanctions automatic, eliminating Mr Trump's ability to waive them.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2018, with the headline 'US promises new severe sanctions on Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe