State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US had made this decision on Monday, and accused Russia of violating international law. The statement anticipated the sanctions would go into effect around Aug. 22 in line with the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991. The State Department notified Congress on Wednesday of the first of two potential tranches of sanctions required under the 1991 law. Firms affected account for 70 percent of the Russian economy and 40 percent of its workforce, or hundreds of millions of dollars. Possibly a second set of penalties must follow, according to the law. It could include a downgrade of diplomatic relations. The first set of sanctions targets certain items the US exports to Russia that could have military uses, the so-called dual use technologies. The US would then require Russia to assure over the next 90 days that it is no longer using chemical or biological weapons and will not do so in the future, even requering on-site inspectors to be allowed to ensure compliance.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, first deputy permanent representative of Russia to the UN, dismissed the sanctions in a tweet on Wednesday. The United Kingdom welcomed the move from the US on Wednesday in a short statement. Putin has previously denied that Russia was behind the Novichok poisonings, saying in March that it was “unthinkable that we would do such a thing.”