WASHINGTON DC: The US has announced that it would impose fresh sanctions against Russia from the end of August. The move comes after intense debate in US circles over the effects of the sanctions, and subsequent measures to ensure the blowback among other things does not affect countries like India.
An official of the US State Department said Moscow had been notified of the coming sanctions. The sanctions are aimed at penalising Moscow for allegedly carrying out a nerve gas attack against Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence operative, in London in March. A number of European countries have already responded by expelling Russian diplomats.
A US State Department spokesperson said the sanctions come after it had been determined that Russia "has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law, or has used lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals."
The debate over whether or not to impose the sanctions had covered discussions over the provisions of US law that would end up penalising some countries that the Washington is looking to improve ties with, like India.
Senior officials taking part in these discussions had pointed out that India has for decades relied on Russian military hardware, and could not be expected to abruptly stop dealing with Moscow.
Provisions of the US law would have penalised India and any other country that held security and defence exchanges with Russian entities. The US government has sought to mitigate this possible blowback against India by taking steps, that have included giving the Strategic Trade Authorization-1 status to India. The STA-1 status will also give India greater access to sensitive technologies.
The US sanctions against Russia that are set to go into effect from the end of August would cover sensitive national-security controlled goods. Exemptions would be made for space flight, space cooperation, and areas covering commercial passenger aviation safety, an official said.
"It is possible that trade affected could potentially reach hundreds of millions of dollars," the official added. "It's up to Russia how dramatic the impact is."
The official said a second batch of "more draconian" sanctions would be imposed after 90 days unless Russia gives "reliable assurances" that it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other international observer groups.
A British government spokesman welcomed Washington`s announcement, saying: "The strong international response to the use of a chemical weapon on the streets of Salisbury sends an unequivocal message to Russia that its provocative, reckless behaviour will not go unchallenged."
(With inputs from Reuters)