National Security

Lawmakers propose new Russia sanctions over UK spy attack

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A bipartisan duo of House lawmakers on Friday introduced a bill that seeks to punish Russia for the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom.

Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Mike Turner (R-Ohio), both members of the House Intelligence Committee, rolled out the Stand with UK against Russia Violations Act that would impose sanctions on anyone involved in the attack last month on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Both were found slumped over on a park bench in early March after having been poisoned with what officials say was a military-grade nerve agent Moscow is known to have developed.

{mosads}”The Russian government sanctioned attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Officer Nick Bailey last month on British soil violated international law and indicates Putin’s growing aggression and disregard for international standards of conduct. It’s imperative that the United States stands with the United Kingdom and our international partners in signaling resolve with a strong response,” Turner and Castro said in a statement.

The U.K., followed by France, Germany and U.S., all said they believe Russia was behind the attack, which used a highly lethal chemical agent known as Novichok. The attack put Skripal and his daughter in the hospital in critical condition.

The Castro–Turner legislation states the president would have the power to decide who to levy the sanctions against once it is determined who “knowingly engaged in, provided material support to, worked on behalf of” the perpetrators behind the attack. The bill is also intended to serve as a deterrent.

“Russian aggression must be met with strength and resolve, including through sanctions to deter future Russian attacks on dissidents, expatriates, and democratic activists,” the bill reads.

“This bill also targets Russian financial institutions until [Russian President Vladimir] Putin ceases its practice of assassinating expatriates and dissidents outside of Russia.”

If passed, the sanctions would be based off of those outlined in Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, a bill Congress passed last year to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential race as well as Moscow’s military actions in Ukraine and Syria.

The introduction of the bill came the same day the Trump administration announced its plans to sanction seven Russian oligarchs and a dozen companies they own and control.

Moscow has denied any involvement in the poisoning, a matter that comes amid already heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow.

The U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomats following the decision by British Prime Minister Theresa May last month to expel 23 Russian diplomats related to the attack — a move that has sparked a tit-for-tat expulsion by the Kremlin.

“We must send a clear, bipartisan message that the United States stands with our allies and will not tolerate such illegal actions, and this legislation does just that,” the lawmakers added.

The legislation also comes shortly before this year’s midterm elections.

The Cook Political Report this month listed Turner as being in a “solid” Republican to “likely” Republican district, suggesting he is favored to win reelection but could face a competitive race.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle largely agree that the Kremlin sought to sow discord and meddle in the 2016 presidential election and will likely attempt to do so again in the upcoming midterms. Special counsel Robert Mueller has charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for seeking to carry out “information warfare” during the election.

Russia has denied that it attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Tags Joaquin Castro Mike Turner Robert Mueller

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