Russian Federation hits back at 'unacceptable' sanctions as rouble tumbles

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A terse release from the State Department said that the United States had determined Russian responsibility for the attack in Salisbury, England - a British conclusion the administration had already accepted - under a 1991 U.S. law on biological and chemical weapons use that requires the president to impose sanctions.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on 4 March, having been poisoned by Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The first set of sanctions covered by that announcement, which US officials said target export licenses of sensitive USA technologies and industrial equipment, such as electronics, calibration equipment, and gas turbine engines, are expected to enter into force around August 22.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharaova denied Russian involvement in the Skripal poisoning on Thursday and said Moscow is working on unspecified "retaliatory measures" against the United States.

So far President Donald Trump has been silent on this latest move - which could well derail his attempts to develop a new, warmer relationship with Vladimir Putin.

On Wednesday, Russia's Kommersant daily published excerpts from another piece of draft US legislation which proposes a ban on USA citizens purchasing Russian sovereign debt as well as steps against the country's biggest banks as well as its oil and gas sector, a key driver of the economy.

The State Department said the sanctions will take effect around August-22.

Mr Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the USA move runs contrary to a "constructive" atmosphere at the Trump-Putin summit last month, and he strongly denied any Russian role in the poisoning in Britain. Moscow, in turn, responded to the global action by ordering its own expulsion of foreign diplomats. But U.S. officials had not yet confirmed the use of banned nerve agents in the attack. And unlike the coordinated trans-Atlantic sanctions enacted in response to the Ukraine crisis in 2014, America's European allies - who together trade far more with Russian Federation that the United States does - aren't following suit this time with new sanctions of their own.

More sanctions that could sever all US-Russian trade or bring a full rupture of diplomatic relations are likely to follow within... It would also impose mandatory sanctions on individuals found to have taken part in the interference. Russian stocks slumped following its unveiling and the dollar hit a two-year high against the rouble.

Faced with a new round of US -sanctions over alleged chemical weapons use, Russia denounced the move as an "illegal" gesture that defied attempts by President Donald Trump and Russian leader Vladimir Putin aimed at improving relations during a recent summit. Anger over what some United States lawmakers saw as a too-deferential performance by Trump and his failure to confront Putin over Moscow's alleged meddling in United States politics galvanized a new sanctions push against Moscow.

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