Moscow to retaliate in sanctions war with US

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     COLLATERAL Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley were also exposed to the nerve agent

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the action was aimed at punishing Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of global law".

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia were found slumped unconscious on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Britain had already accused Russian Federation of being behind the attack, which the Kremlin vehemently denies.

Almost two weeks after the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked why the administration was AWOL on Russia's use of a deadly nerve agent on British soil, and less than a week after a group of senators introduced a package of crushing sanctions on the Kremlin, the State Department announced that mandatory sanctions for chemical weapons use will go into effect.

'Following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register, expected on or around August 22, 2018'. If Russia does not meet three criteria - ending its use of such weapons, assuring the USA that it has no plans to use them again, and offering to let global observers verify that - then there will be a second, harsher round of sanctions in 90 days.

The US made a similar determination in February when it found that North Korea used a chemical weapon to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half-brother at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2017.

The higher price of oil, however, has given Russia's government a large financial cushion to maintain public services and to assist business magnates targeted by US sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has previously denied allegations that Russia was behind the poisonings, saying in March that it was "unthinkable that we would do such a thing".

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Mr Putin, himself a former KGB spy, said earlier this month Mr Skripal would have been dead if he was attacked with a weapons-grade agent.

Sturgess, 44, died a week after the exposure. "So linking these events is unacceptable to us, and just as with previous USA sanctions we believe are absolutely illegal and against worldwide law", Peskov told reporters.

The latest U.S. action follows the Treasury's imposition of sanctions in March against 19 Russian citizens and five entities for interfering in the 2016 United States election - the toughest steps against Moscow since Trump took office.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson added that it is "overwhelmingly likely" that the attack was directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We confirmed that we continue to strongly stand for an open and transparent investigation of the crime committed in Salisbury and for bringing the culprits to justice".

"This whole accusatory pyramid is being built in the absence of any legal substantiation, but they're still telling us about worldwide law and respect for legal obligations", Zakharova told the Moscow briefing.

"We believe linking new [U.S.] restrictive measures, which we continue to consider illegitimate, to the Salisbury case is totally unacceptable", Peskov said, according to the Russian news agency TASS, referring to the suspected poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

A new round of sanctions that could come into force in three months could put an end to Russian crude oil and oil product exports to the United States, S&P Platts reports, citing a 1991 law treating the imports of national security-sensitive goods, including crude oil, as well as technology.

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