First round of U.S. sanctions on Russia over Skripal case comes in effect

First round of U.S. sanctions on Russia over Skripal case comes in effect

The United States authorities' sanctions imposed on Russia over the Skripal case came in effect today.

The sanctions were imposed following the alleged use of a 'Novichok' nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal on August 6, 2018. The State Department considers that Moscow violated the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991.

The US Department of State said in a statement on August 8 that the U.S. will impose new sanctions on Russia because of the Skripal case on August 22.

According to the statement, the first package of sanctions applies to dual use products, the export to Russia of all sensitive goods and know-how related with US national security and also electronics, components and technologies for the oil and gas industry.

"We intend to impose sanctions against the Russian Federation in a number of respects, the most significant of which is the imposition of a presumption of denial for all national security sensitive goods or technologies that are controlled by the Department of Commerce pursuant to the Export Administration Regulations. These goods are currently subject to a license - a case-by-case license determination, but we are - henceforth, when these sanctions go into effect, we will be presumptively denying such applications," the Department of State said.

A high-ranking Department of State official said that Washington was making "a number of carve-outs" to these sanctions to allow the continuation of certain foreign assistance; exports for space flight activities, safety of commercial passenger aviation, and "purely commercial end users for civilian end uses"; and perhaps other activities.

Alongside this the act envisages the possibility of far harsher sanctions to be taken in three months’ time. The second package of restrictions envisages a downgrade of bilateral diplomatic relations or their complete suspension, an overall ban on the export of US goods to Russia except for foods and on the United States’ import of Russian goods, including oil and oil products, refusal of permission to any planes of Russian government-controlled air carriers to land in the United States and Washington’s veto on all loans to Moscow from international financial organizations.

The US Department of State refrained from disclosing what evidence or intelligence information was used for making an unambiguous conclusion Russia was involved in the poisoning incident in Salisbury. At the same time the US authorities said they would not like to resort to the second phase of restrictions. For that Russia must present convincing arguments it will not violate international chemical weapons legislation and also permit onsite inspections by the United Nations and independent foreign observers in order to guarantee the government does not use chemical weapons in violation of international law.

Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on August 10 that the possible tightening up of U.S. sanctions against Russia may be treated as a declaration of economic war, which must be responded by all economic, political and other means possible.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Washington's sanctions were illegal and unfriendly and that the U.S. move was at odds with the “constructive atmosphere” of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s encounter in Helsinki.

Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov commented on the US ban to export high-tech dual-purpose products to Russia, which came into force on August 22.

"The ban on exporting dual-purpose electronic devices and components to Russia will undoubtedly affect certain high-tech sectors, including the defense industry, but not critically," the minister noted, adding that Russia would replace sanctions-hit electronic components with domestically produced or imported from South-East Asia.

"We have already prepared a package of countermeasures, intended to offset the impact of US actions. As far as electronics is concerned, we will replace the prohibited components by domestically produced ones, or import them from South-East Asian countries. Those markets remain open for us," TASS cited him as saying.

Manturov stressed that restrictions on exports of important components, used in the military and space sectors, are already in place.

"Prior to that, no one sold to us cutting-edge electronic equipment as well. The full ban can possibly affect certain enterprises, but we will try to give them maximum support," he pointed out.

"We have been preparing for this situation for quite a time,. More than 1,500 types of basic electronic components have been developed within various federal programs in the past six years. Domestic enterprises have been developing high-tech basic electronic components, standardized to correspond to various requirements," the Russian minister said.

"Until 2020, were will create another 2,000 types of such products, which can be used to replace more than 9,000 foreign-made components," Manturov concluded.