President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the nerve-agent attack carried out against a former Russian spy on British soil by agents of the Kremlin last year.
This is the second round of sanctions imposed in response to the Kremlin’s use of the deadly nerve agent novichok to poison former military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in the British town of Salisbury. The attack placed Skripal and his daughter in a coma and injured three others, one of whom, a British woman named Dawn Sturgess, died.
The sanctions were prescribed under the the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which requires that the State Department confirm that a nation that has used chemical weapons is no longer in possession of them. Since Russia refuses to admit responsibility for the novichok attack, the State Department has been unable to verify that it has dispensed with its chemical weapons, triggering automatic sanctions under the law.
The State Department informed Congress in November that it could not clear Russia, but President Trump took no action at that time. On Monday, the bipartisan leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee sent a letter to the president threatening legislative action if he did not move to implement additional sanctions.
“Failure by the administration to respond to Russia’s unabashed aggression is unacceptable and would necessitate that Congress take corrective action,” wrote Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D., N.Y.), and Michael McCaul (R., Texas).
The law provided the administration with a range of sanctions options. The chosen option prohibits most loans from American banks to the Russian government and bans loans and other aid from most international banks to the Russia.