Brussels – The EU hit four members of Russia’s intelligence directorate with sanctions on Monday, in response to the near-fatal poisoning of a Russian former double agent and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in 2018.
Western governments accuse Moscow of being behind the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March 2018 – a charge that Russia has denied.
The incident played a large role in prompting the EU to draw up a new sanctions regime in October, allowing the bloc to impose travel bans and asset freezes on people and entities involved in chemical attacks.
Monday’s decision will help to make the use of chemical weapons “a taboo,’’ said British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, adding that “the use of Novichok in Salisbury was an incredibly dangerous thing to do.’’
The EU measures target the two officials “responsible for possession, transport and use in Salisbury of a toxic nerve agent,” as well as the head and deputy head of the intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, EU foreign ministers said in a statement.
The Kremlin called the measures unjustified.
“We are all familiar with the infamous photographs of these two citizens in the UK.
But at the same time, there are many photos of Russian citizens in the UK, and they do not serve as direct proof,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry threatened “retaliatory measures,” saying the “accusations against Russia and our citizens in the Skripal case do not withstand criticism.”
EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, stressed, however, that all EU sanctions decisions are based on “long and very sound legal assessments’’ that would stand up to scrutiny in court.
Monday’s decisions – the first under the EU’s new chemical weapons sanctions regime – also included measures relating to incidents in Syria.
The ministers imposed new sanctions on Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), holding it “responsible for the development and production of chemical weapons,” as well as five officials “directly involved” in its activities.
At least 40 people were killed in an attack last April on the Syrian city of Douma, which was under rebel control at the time.
Western powers accuse the Syrian government of having used chemical weapons here and in other attacks – allegations it has rejected.
The SSRC had already been hit with EU sanctions for its role in the Syrian conflict.
The bloc also added 11 prominent Syrian businessmen and five companies to its existing sanctions list for those contributing to the country’s almost eight-year civil war, bringing the total to 270 individuals and 72 entities.
Those added on Monday “are involved in luxury estate development and other regime-backed projects, and as such support and/or benefit from the Syrian regime,” the ministers said. (dpa/NAN)
Those added on Monday “are involved in luxury estate development and other regime-backed projects, and as such support and/or benefit from the Syrian regime,” the ministers said.