LUXEMBOURG, October 14. /TASS/. The EU has renewed sanctions against entities and individuals allegedly involved in the use and development of chemical weapons, including four Russian citizens said to be linked to the poisoning of former GRU (Russian General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate) agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, the press service of the European Council informed on Monday. The sanctions also apply to several persons linked to the Syrian regime and one Syrian organization.
"The Council today extended restrictive measures by the EU addressing the use and proliferation of chemical weapons until 16 October 2020. These sanctions, which consist of a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze for persons, as well as an asset freeze for entities, currently apply to nine persons — five linked to the Syrian regime and four involved in the Salisbury attack — and one organisation, the Scientific Studies and Research Centre (SSRC), the Syrian regime's principal entity for the development of chemical weapons," the statement notes.
In January of this year, the EU slapped sanctions against four GRU officials, including head and deputy head of the GRU, "responsible for possession, transport and use in Salisbury (UK) of a toxic nerve agent on the weekend of 4 March 2018", the EU Council informed. Sanctions were also imposed on the Syrian entity responsible for the development and production of chemical weapons, the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), as well as five Syrian officials directly involved in the SSRC's activities.
New sanctions regime on chemical weapons
The EU Council adopted the new regime of restrictive measures on October 15, 2018 to address the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. Under the new regime, the EU will be able to impose sanctions on persons and entities involved in the development and use of chemical weapons anywhere, regardless of their nationality and location. The restrictive measures will target persons and entities who are directly responsible for the development and use of chemical weapons, as well as those who provide financial, technical or material support, and those who assist, encourage or are associated with them.
The process of elaborating a new mechanism of imposing sanctions was launched as part of a decision of the EU summit held in late June 2018. The decision stipulates the need to create a new regime of EU restrictive measures aimed against the proliferation of chemical weapons. The decision was adopted the day after a special session of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), convened in The Hague on the initiative of the United Kingdom and the United States over the Skripal case, and also in the wake of accusations of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government troops in Syria.
On March 4, 2018, former GRU officer Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of the so-called Novichok nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a nerve agent allegedly developed in Russia, London rushed to accuse Moscow of being behind the incident. The Russian side flatly rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.
On September 5, 2019, then-Prime Minister of the UK Theresa May informed the country’s parliament about the conclusions that investigators looking into the Salisbury incident had come to, saying that two Russians, believed to be GRU agents, were suspected of conspiracy to murder the Skripals.