Trump imposes new sanctions on Russia over chemical weapons use

Trump imposes new sanctions on Russia over chemical weapons use
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren unveils Native American policy plan Live-action 'Mulan' star spurs calls for boycott with support of Hong Kong police Don't let other countries unfairly tax America's most innovative companies MORE signed an executive order on Thursday imposing a second round of long-awaited sanctions on Russia over the Kremlin's involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter living in Britain.

“After the first round of sanctions in response to Russia’s use of ‘novichok’ in an assassination attempt against a private citizen in the United Kingdom, Russia did not provide the assurances required under U.S. law so we are imposing the second round of sanctions,” a senior administration official told The Hill on Friday.

The sanctions are the second group of punitive actions to be taken by the U.S. departments of Treasury and State following the attack on former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Both were put into a coma following the attack and at least three others were sickened.

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The State Department issued guidance on the sanctions late Friday, making clear that they target new Russian sovereign debt. The State Department said the measures could potentially curtail Russia's access to "billions of dollars of bilateral commercial activity" with the U.S. 

"These sanctions will restrict Russia’s access to the multilateral development bank system, the U.S. market for primary issuances of non-ruble denominated Russian sovereign debt, non-ruble denominated debt financing, and U.S.-origin items that are strategically important to Russia’s chemical and biological weapons program.  These measures could curtail Russia’s access to billions of dollars of bilateral commercial activity with the United States," the guidance states. 

Peter Harrell, a former State Department official who worked on sanctions policy during the Obama administration, observed that the sanctions package appears to be "an extremely tailored ban that was designed to minimize market impacts."

The State Department said the sanctions will go into effect on or around Aug. 19 and will remain in place for a minimum of a year. They can only be lifted thereafter if Moscow meets a series of strict criteria under the law.

Officials from the U.S. and Europe have accused Moscow of involvement in the attempted assassination of Skripal in the U.K.; the Kremlin has denied any wrongdoing. 

The administration first imposed sanctions on Russia in August 2018 after the State Department determined that deadly use of Novichok, the nerve agent, violated the 1991 Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act passed by Congress.

Bipartisan lawmakers have criticized the Trump administration’s delay in taking what they say is legally mandated action to follow up on last year's sanctions.

The administration was required by last November to determine whether Russia had met a series of strict criteria under the 1991 law — including certifying it is no longer using chemical weapons — to avoid a second round of sanctions.

At the time, the State Department said Russia had triggered new sanctions and that the department was “consulting with Congress” on the next steps but provided no timeline on when the next round would be announced.

The administration is required to choose at least three from a menu of six categories of sanctions stipulated by the law.

The State Department said Friday that the U.S. will oppose the extension of any loan, or financial or technical assistance from international financial institutions to Russia; will prohibit American banks from "participating in the primary market for non-ruble denominated bonds issued by the Russian sovereign and lending non-ruble denominated funds to the Russian sovereign”; and will restrict exports to Russia of dual-use chemical and biological items controlled by the Commerce Department. 

The package includes some waivers for restrictions on bank loans and exports that the Trump administration determined as essential to U.S. national security. 

The announcement comes after the House Foreign Affairs Committee's top Democrat and Republican sent a joint letter to Trump earlier this week threatening new congressional action to force action on the sanctions.

“Failure by the administration to respond to Russia’s unabashed aggression is unacceptable and would necessitate that Congress take corrective action,” Reps. Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelLiberal Democrat eyes aid cuts to Israel after Omar, Tlaib denied entry House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties Trump imposes new sanctions on Russia over chemical weapons use MORE (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulTop Foreign Affairs Republican: 'It would benefit all of us' for Omar, Tlaib to visit Israel Trump imposes new sanctions on Russia over chemical weapons use The Hill's Morning Report: More bad news for House Republicans MORE (R-Texas) wrote.

This story was updated Aug. 3 at 9:45 a.m. with additional information