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EU hits Russians, Syria with sanctions over chemical weapons

January 21, 2019

The EU has targeted individuals in Syria and Russia with links to chemical weapons attacks. The bloc has been discussing the new sanctions regime since late last year, prompted by the Skripal poisoning in the UK.

Employees in protective gear prepare to dismantle a dummy grenade
Image: Philipp Guelland/AFP/Getty Images

The EU on Monday imposed sanctions for the use of chemical weapons for the first time. The sanctions target those accused of orchestrating chemical weapons attacks in Syria and individuals linked to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain last year.

Moscow has been accused by European governments of being involved in the nerve agent attack on the former Russian double agent in the British city of Salisbury. The Russian government has repeatedly denied the charge.

Read moreDo sanctions against Russia work?

But the incident caused ripples across the EU and in October 2018, it led the bloc to draft the new sanctions package to target people and entities involved in chemical attacks.

The EU travel bans and asset freezes target "the two GRU [Russia's intelligence agency] officials ... responsible for possession, transport and use in Salisbury (UK) of a toxic nerve agent," as well as the head and deputy head of the organization, EU foreign ministers wrote in a statement. 

Russia dismissed the EU plan, viewing it as a negative development and saying that it changed nothing.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Britain had still not handed over the evidence it had gathered against them, reinforcing that Moscow's involvement was still unproven.

Read more: Opinion: The Skripal poisoning's smoking gun

Syria in focus

The sanctions regime also includes punishment for the atrocities committed in Syria in April of 2018. At least 40 people were killed in a chemical attack on the city of Douma, which was under rebel control at the time.

Under the sanctions policy, the EU imposed restrictive measures on a Syrian entity responsible for the development and production of chemical weapons and five Syrian officials "directly involved" in its activities. The bloc has already sanctioned a list of 259 Syrians for their alleged role in the country's civil war.

Western nations have also accused the Syrian government of being involved in the chemical weapons attacks — allegations Damascus has denied.

Monday's foreign ministers meeting in Brussels, will also deal with other topics such as Brexit, disinformation and the upcoming EU elections, the disputed results of presidential elections in Congo and the crisis in Venezuela, among others.

Chancellor Angela Merkel regrets UN Security Council's failure to agree to investigate alleged chemical attack in Syria.

jcg/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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