The EU is to slap sanctions on two suspected Russian agents accused of carrying out a deadly nerve agent attack in the British city of Salisbury, officials told AFP Thursday.
Foreign ministers from the bloc will formally sign off on restrictive measures against nine individuals and one entity at a meeting on Monday, as part of the EU’s new sanctions regime aimed at punishing those who use chemical weapons in breach of international treaties.
Several diplomatic sources confirmed to AFP that the nine will include the two men blamed for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city in March last year using the Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok.
The two men, who claimed to be tourists but have been identified by the Bellingcat investigative group as decorated agents for Russia’s GRU military intelligence called Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, were hit with sanctions by the US in December.
The EU is to sanction two more Russians as well, along with five Syrians, in the first listings made under the new mechanism, which was introduced in October following the Skripal attack.
“It will be the first time there is a listing related to violations of international obligations under the OPCW and that will involve listing nine persons and one entity,” a senior EU official said, adding “they are obviously very naughty people”.
The Salisbury attack, the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II, caused an international outcry and prompted a mass expulsion of Russian diplomats by Western nations.
The Skripals survived the attack but a woman died in June after her partner picked up a discarded perfume bottle that British investigators believe was used to carry the Novichok.
Moscow denies involvement in the poisoning and has offered numerous and varied alternative explanations and counter-accusations.