Moscow slams USA sanctions as 'absolutely illegal' while Russian markets tumble

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March

Image Sergei and Yulia Skripal were attacked with novichok and found slumped on a bench in Salisbury in March

The United States announced a new round of sanctions targeting Russian Federation on Wednesday that pushed the rouble to two-year lows and sparked a wider sell-off over fears Russian Federation was locked in a spiral of never-ending sanctions. And this war will have to be responded - by economic, political and, if necessary, other means.

"And our American friends need to understand this".

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharaova denied Russian involvement in the Skripal poisoning on Thursday and said Moscow is working on unspecified "retaliatory measures" against the United States.

The U.S. sanctions announced on Wednesday, which will go into effect around August 22, will restrict the licenses granted for exports of national security goods and technologies to Russian Federation.

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A second set of measures could be substantially broader and would be imposed if Moscow fails to meet a 90-day deadline to provide "reliable assurances" it will no longer use chemical weapons, allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other worldwide observer groups, and respond to other US demands.

The attack prompted an initial wave of diplomatic expulsions between U.S. -Britain allies and Russia - including the tit-for-tat exit of 60 Russian and U.S. diplomats in March.

The Trump administration said on Wednesday that it would soon impose new sanctions against Russia in response to the attempted assassination in March of a former Russian spy living in England and his daughter. Furthermore, Moscow eliminated all stockpiles of its chemical weapons under worldwide obligations, unlike the USA, which has still to honor its commitment.

They were aimed at punishing Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of global law", spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.

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The ruble is down 14.25% versus the dollar this year.

The US and European Union also have sanctions in place against dozens of Russian state officials and firms accused of involvement in the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea and support for the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. Anger over what some United States lawmakers saw as a too-deferential performance by Trump and his failure to confront Putin over Moscow's alleged meddling in United States politics galvanized a new sanctions push against Moscow.

In a statement issued by its embassy in Washington, Russia called charges that Moscow employed chemical weapons "far fetched" - arguing the US lacked evidence, and repeating demands for a new investigation into the poisoning.

If Russia does not meet three criteria - ending its use of such weapons, assuring the USA that it has no plans to use them again, and offering to let global observers verify that - then there will be a second, harsher round of sanctions in 90 days.

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The action by the US State Department is the latest salvo in a series of disputes between the rival powers and comes less than a month after US President Donald Trump met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

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