WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The White House announced new sanctions against Russia which could block the export of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of goods to the country.
The new sanctions could block Russia from purchasing potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons, electronics, and avionics.
The sanctions are set to take effect later this month.
The move is in response to Russia poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia who now live in England. U.S. and British intelligence agencies say Russia deployed a nerve agent in the attempted murder.
California Republican Congressman Ed Royce has been pushing the White House to sanction the Russians for months now over the murder attempt. He has sent two letters to the White House demanding the administration use a 1991 law designed to punish countries using chemical or biological weapons.
If Russia doesn’t agree to stop using chemical weapons, there could be another round of more severe sanctions in 90 days.
The sanctions come as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is visiting Russia. The congressman hand-delivered a letter from President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin asking for “expanding dialogue.”
The Kremlin has described the new sanctions as “categorically unacceptable” and “illegal.” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Russia “will work on retaliatory measures” in response to the sanctions.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were hospitalized and treated for a nerve-agent attack in March. Yulia Skripal was discharged from the hospital in April, and her father was released in May. The UK and its allies have blamed Russia for the attack, an accusation the Kremlin has repeatedly rebuffed.
“Once again we totally reject any allegations of possible Russian government involvement over what happened in Salisbury,” said Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding that “Russia did not have and does not have anything to do with the use of chemical weapons.”
The first set of sanctions targets certain items the US exports to Russia that could have military uses — so-called dual-use technologies. These are sensitive goods that normally would go through a case-by-case review before they are exported. With these sanctions, the exports will be presumptively denied.
A former Defense Department official, Mark Simakovsky, said that a second tranche would target Russian exports to the US and theoretically could include restrictions on flights by the state airline Aeroflot as well as a downgrade of diplomatic relations.
When asked Thursday about the possibility of a ban on Aeroflot, Peskov labeled the US administration an “unpredictable participant in international affairs,” adding “you can now expect anything.”
“President Putin said in Helsinki that Russia still has hopes for the creation of a constructive relationship with Washington,” Peskov said.
“This relationship is not only in the interests of our peoples but also for strategic stability and security in the world. Putin has said more than once and he has demonstrated a constructive approach and his readiness to find a way out of difficult situations and discuss difficult questions. No one should doubt that Putin will not keep to this approach.”
“We are sorry that often we are not met with cooperation on this account.”
The United Kingdom welcomed the move from the US on Wednesday. In a short statement, a government spokesperson said, “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 behavior will not go unchallenged.”
(©2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to this report.)