U.S. hits Russia with new sanctions for former spy’s poisoning

President Donald Trump imposed new sanctions on Russia in connection with the poisoning of a former spy living in Britain more than a year ago.

President Donald Trump, shown addressing a campaign rally in Cincinnati on Thursday, signed off on new sanctions the same day against Russia over the poisoning of a former double-agent in Britain. Photo by John Sommers II

Congress had been pressuring Trump to punish Russia after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent at their British home in March 2018. Britain blamed the Russian government for the poisoning, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied it.

House Foreign Affairs Committee members Eliot L. Engel, D-N.Y., and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, threatened Monday to take new congressional action if the Trump administration did not.

“Failure by the administration to respond to Russia’s unabashed aggression is unacceptable and would necessitate that Congress take corrective action,” they wrote in a joint letter.

British officials said the chemical Novichok was used in the attack on the Skripals, a deadly Soviet-era poison that has been banned by the Chemical Weapons Act.

Trump signed the executive order on sanctions Thursday after Russia failed last November to certify that it was no longer using chemical weapons under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.

Thursday’s action was the second round of sanctions against Russia in regard to the Skripal incident. The administration expelled 60 Russians from Washington’s Russian embassy, following similar expulsions conducted by Britain and other European countries last year.

Putin has referred to Skripal as a “traitor” in the past after Britain successfully recruited him as a double-agent in 1990. He was eventually convicted in Russia but he settled in Britain as a result of a spy swap in 2010.

Skripal and his daughter survived the poison attack.

ByClyde Hughes