Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | ePaper
New US sanctions 'unacceptable': Russia
The Kremlin on Thursday branded as "unacceptable" new US sanctions against Russia over its alleged role in a nerve agent attack on a former spy, as the ruble and Russian stocks tumbled.
The action by the US State Department is the latest salvo in a series of disputes between the rival powers, and comes less than a month after US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. The State Department said Wednesday the new sanctions were in response to "the use of a 'Novichok' nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen Sergei Skripal"-who was a Russian double agent-and his daughter Yulia on English soil in March.
They are aimed at punishing Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law," spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
But the punitive measures-which were welcomed by Britain-triggered a furious response from Moscow.
"We consider categorically unacceptable the linking of new restrictions, which we as before consider illegal, to the case in Salisbury," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
However, he added that "Moscow retains hopes of building constructive relations with Washington".
The ruble sank to 66.48 against the dollar, its lowest since November 2016, while the Russian stock market index RTS dropped 3.2 percent and the MOEX nearly 1.2 percent at around 0745 GMT, before rebounding slightly.
Russian banks were also affected, with shares in state-run Sberbank sliding 4.7 percent.
The move could cut off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of exports to Russia, according to another senior State Department official, who requested anonymity in order to speak about the sanctions.
The official told reporters that the administration decided to impose a "presumption of denial" for the sale to Russia of "national security sensitive" US technologies that require federal government approval.
Such technologies have often been used in items including electronic devices as well as calibration equipment. The exports were previously allowed on a case-by-case basis.
In the event of non-compliance, the official added, a second round of "draconian" sanctions would be given a green light. These could go as far as a ban on Russian airlines using US airports.
Shares in Russia's main airline Aeroflot plunged by more than 10 percent but later rebounded.