World Bulletin / News Desk
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by a nerve agent in March in the southern English city of Salisbury. The British government has blamed the incident on Russia, linking the nerve agent to a series of Russia-developed chemical weapons collectively known as Novichok.
The Kremlin has denied responsibility.
The Skripals have since recovered from the alleged assassination attempt.
In announcing the forthcoming penalties, the State Department said it determined that Moscow "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals".
The department cited the decades-old Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, which was passed in 1991.
The sanctions are expected to take effect on or around Aug. 22 following a congressional notification period.
A senior State Department official told reporters on condition of anonymity that the Kremlin had been notified of the action. The sanctions deny export licenses for any goods with national security implications, the official said. Items for the safety of commercial passenger aviation will be exempted, as will space flight activities and commercial space launches.
If Russia does not meet certain criteria the act specifies within 90 days, a second tranche of "more draconian" sanctions will take effect, the official said.
"Hopefully we will not get to that point, but that’s really a question for Russia than for us," the official said.
Among the penalties Russia could face in the second round are the suspension of its flagship carrier Aeroflot’s ability to fly to and out of the U.S., a downgrade in bilateral ties and the effective cutting off of all imports and exports.
The act had only been enforced twice before -- once on Syria in 2013 and a second time on North Korea following the VX nerve gas assassination of one of leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brothers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2017.
In the UK, at least two other people were hospitalized after suffering from exposure to Novichok in a town near Salisbury.
Charlie Rowley, 45, was released from a hospital last month, but his partner, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after exposure.
Rowley and Sturgess were hospitalized after being exposed to the deadly nerve agent on June 30. Police found a bottle containing the substance at the scene. Sturgess succumbed to the poisoning and died in hospital.
The United States last week voiced suspicion over Russia’s pursuit of new space weapons, including a mobile laser system to destroy satellites in space, and the launch of a new inspector satellite which was acting in an “abnormal” way.
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