President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday slapping sanctions on Russia over the country’s use of chemical weapons.
What’s the background?
The new sanctions were put in place in retribution for Russia’s poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal. Skripal worked for Russian military intelligence, but gave information to MI6, the United Kingdom’s foreign intelligence service. After he was discovered, he fled to England.
On March 4, 2018, Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found slumped on a bench near a shopping center in Salisbury, England. Authorities in the U.K. later determined that they had been poisoned by the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok, which had been placed on the front door of Skripal’s house.
The Russian government denied that they were involved in the incident. Two members of the Russian intelligence agency GRU whom the British suspected of being involved in the attack claimed that they had only been in the vicinity of Skripal’s house at the time of his poisoning so they could visit the Salisbury Cathedral.
Skripal and his daughter survived the attack, but a woman died after inadvertently coming into contact with the discarded container that had been used to transport the nerve agent.
The U.S. has agreed with the U.K.’s assessment that the Russian government was behind the attack. The U.S. government has already joined the U.K. and several other countries in expelling some Russian diplomats over the Skripal incident. It also imposed some sanctions on Russia related to this case in August 2018.
What happened now?
In a statement to The Hill, an unnamed senior official with the Trump administration explained:
After the first round of sanctions in response to Russia’s use of ‘novichok’ in an assassination attempt against a private citizen in the United Kingdom, Russia did not provide the assurances required under U.S. law so we are imposing the second round of sanctions.
According to Reuters, the State and Treasury Departments came up with these sanctions and sent them to the White House in March.