Moscow slams U.S. sanctions as 'absolutely illegal' while Russian markets tumble

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March

On March 4 Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who had worked for United Kingdom intelligence, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury.

Russian Federation denies involvement in the attack and has accused Britain of failing to share its evidence.

'Following a 15-day Congressional notification period, these sanctions will take effect upon publication of a notice in the Federal Register, expected on or around August 22, 2018'.

In turn, U.S. State Department officials insisted the new sanctions were triggered automatically by longstanding U.S. policy regarding the use of chemical weapons by state actors.

The US administration is obliged to act, under legislation, if chemical or biological weapons have been used.

Under the terms of the sanctions, any attempt by a USA company to obtain an export licence to sell anything with a potential national security goal - gas turbine engines, electronics, integrated circuits and testing and calibration equipment - will be automatically denied.

The Russian embassy in the USA called the measures "draconian" and Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they were "illegal" and "absolutely unfriendly". Royce had previously accused Trump of ignoring the Russian nerve agent attack. One of them, Dawn Sturgess, died eight days later.

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The use of chemical or biological weapons, which is a violation of global law, triggers sanctions under US law.

"Trump is the master of media manipulation, and the decision to sanction Russia over the Skripal assassination attempt comes, not coincidentally, as pressure mounts on the president to react to the widespread condemnation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election", Professor Michael Cullinane, a reader in United States history at the University of Roehampton, told i.

"I think that's the way we have to understand this.there's actually no logical reason for them to do this now", he said, noting that the United Kingdom hasn't produced any new evidence or information about the Skripal case which would have prompted the sanctions.

"The Russian government engages in a range of malign activity around the globe", Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said at the time, saying Russia has continued to occupy Ukraine's Crimea region, supplied weapons to the Syrian regime, and engaged in cyberwarfare.

The announcement in Washington was likely to intensify troubles for the ruble, which took a hit Wednesday along with the stock market over rumors of separate new tough U.S. sanctions over election meddling.

The Kremlin, meanwhile, repeated its previous denial of any involvement in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in southern England this year, while playing down the importance of the sanctions.

Trump caught flak from Democrats and Republicans alike for what many saw as his unsettling embrace of Putin last month at their Helsinki summit, when Trump appeared to disavow his own intelligence agencies' assessment on Moscow's election interference. He said the new sanctions amount to "inflicting a punishment in the absence of a crime, in the tradition of lynch law". His administration has sanctioned a number of Russian officials and oligarchs for human rights abuses and election meddling. Rand Paul hand-delivered a letter from Mr. Trump to Putin, asking for "expanding dialogue".

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