Making a linking to these events is for us unacceptable
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov
The United States announced yesterday it would impose more sanctions on Russia after determining Moscow was responsible for a nerve agent attack in Britain on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33.
Russia denies involvement in the incident – and MP Leonid Slutsky, who is chairman of the influential Committee on International Affairs, warned the move could prompt Moscow to impose restrictions in respect of the RD-180, which is vital for US Atlas V space rockets.
Meanwhile Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking to reporters on a conference call, said the US move was «absolutely unfriendly,» but said Moscow continued to hope that for an improvement in battered US-Russia relations.
Unusually, there was no immediate comment by the US president, who has been heavily critical of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Under US legislation, the administration is obliged to act once there has been a determination that chemical or biological weapons have been used.
State Department officials said the sanctions — which are due to come into force around August 22 — were expected to include an export ban on sensitive national security technology and goods.
They could be followed by a second more punitive round of measures if the administration is unable to certify that Russia is no longer using chemical weapons or provide «reliable assurances» that it will not do so in future.
According to US reports, they could include downgrading diplomatic relations, suspending flights to the US by state airline Aeroflot and cutting off many exports and imports.
A statement issued by the Russian embassy in Washington accused the Americans of running a «sanctions assembly line» after the surprise announcement, accusing the US of failing to provide any justification for the action.
It added: «We grew accustomed to not hearing any facts or evidence. The American side refused to answer our follow-up questions, claiming that the information is classified. However, we were told that the US has enough intel to conclude that Russia is to blame.
«We confirmed that we continue to strongly stand for an open and transparent investigation of the crime committed in Salisbury and for bringing the culprits to justice. We suggested publishing our correspondence on this issue. No answer has followed so far.»
Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center and a former colonel in the Russian army, said the State Department’s move looked like the latest salvo in what he called a hybrid war.
He tweeted: «Sanctions are the US weapon of choice.
«They are not an instrument, but the policy itself.
«Russia will have to brace for more to come over next several years, prepare for the worst and push back where it can.”
In contrast, the US move was warmly welcomed by Downing Street which has consistently blamed Moscow for the attack in March on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a military-grade Novichok nerve agent developed by the former Soviet Union.
Two other people, Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley, were subsequently exposed to the nerve agent, believed to have been in a perfume bottle discarded by the attackers. Ms Sturgess died eight days later.
A No 10 spokesman said: «The UK welcomes this further action by our US allies.
«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 behaviour will not go unchallenged.»
The US announcement follows reports that the British Government is preparing to submit an extradition request for two Russian nationals wanted in connection with the attack.
The latest sanctions are due to come into force on August 22.