Thursday morning, a day after President Donald Trump assured British PM Theresa May that the U.S. backed her rebuke of Russia for allegedly poisoning a protected citizen on British soil, the White House announced new sanctions against Russia and released a statement of alliance with European leaders.
We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2018. A British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened. We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the United Kingdom police and emergency services for their courageous response. This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War. It is an assault on the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of us all. The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack. We share the United Kingdom’s assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia´s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the United Kingdom further underlines Russia’s responsibility. We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack in Salisbury. Russia should, in particular, provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the U.N. Security Council to uphold international peace and security.
In addition to the call for Russia to explain itself as regards the Salisbury attack, the White House announced new sanctions against Russian entities Thursday — including those already announced in the Mueller investigation last month — for activities related to meddling in the 2016 election, for what they are calling malicious cyber attacks and for an attempt to penetrate the U.S. energy grid.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin delivered news of the sanctions against 19 Russian entities, and noted those entities would be cut off from accessing the U.S. financial system.
“The administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyber activity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” Mnuchin said via a Treasury Department statement.
The new sanctions, which include the 13 individuals and 3 companies already targeted by the Mueller investigation, include “Russian intelligence services, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and six individuals working on behalf of the GRU.”
While many critical of Trump’s response to Russia’s assumed role in the poisoning attack note that the new sanctions come a month and a half after a “congressionally mandated deadline to impose new sanctions”, they also begrudgingly acknowledge that the new sanctions represent a strident punishment not yet seen from this administration.
In total, the administration applied new sanctions on five entities and 19 individuals on Thursday, including Russians who posed as Americans and posted content online as part of the IRA’s attempts to sow discord ahead of the presidential contest.
In addition to freezing the assets of the entities, the new sanctions will also prevent individuals under sanction from traveling to the U.S.