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US sanctions prove Washington continues to worsen ties with Moscow: Russian envoy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov

New US sanctions on Russia over an incident involving Western-backed blogger Alexei Navalny prove that the US continues to pursue a policy aimed at destroying ties with Moscow, says the Russian ambassador to the United States.

On Friday, the administration of President Joe Biden imposed sanctions against Moscow on the first anniversary of Navalny's poisoning, targeting a number of Russian security officials allegedly involved in a nerve attack on the blogger last year.

"The actions of the US side confirm that the administration continues to blindly follow the course of destroying relations with Russia. They don’t think about the consequences,” the Russian embassy’s Facebook page quoted Anatoly Antonov as saying.

“Instead of focusing on real threats and problems of global security, they are engaged in moralizing, seeking to cling to the country's pseudo-leading role in democracy and international law. It is unlikely that Washington's unconstructive steps will help strengthen global stability in such a difficult time for all states," Antonov added.

The Russian ambassador said the new sanctions were introduced under a completely false pretext.

"No evidence of the use of chemical warfare agents was provided. Moreover, Russia, in contrast to the United States, back in 2017, completely eliminated all its [chemical weapons] stocks.”

The US sanctions targeted nine individuals and four entities who were said to be Russian intelligence operatives.

Navalny was taken ill on a domestic flight on August 20, 2020. He was later transported to the German capital, where he was hospitalized with alleged poisoning. His aides, as well as the German government and some Western countries, claimed he had been poisoned before the domestic Russian flight, blaming Moscow.

Moscow has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying the West is exploiting the case for political reasons and using it as a pretext to impose more sanctions against Russia.

‘Unilateral sanctions are illegitimate’

،he British government Friday also published an updated version of its sanctions list that included seven new names allegedly involved in the poisoning incident.

The Foreign Office claimed in a statement, "The sanctioned individuals are directly responsible for planning or carrying out the attack on Mr. Navalny.”

British foreign minister Dominic Raab described the move as a "warning" to Russia.

In a joint statement later in the day, the US and British governments called on Russia to “comply fully with the Chemical Weapons Convention, including its obligations to declare and dismantle its chemical weapons program,” and said, "We remain determined to uphold the global norm against the use of chemical weapons."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova responded to the new restrictions on social media and said the "unilateral sanctions are illegitimate as they have not been approved by the UN Security Council.”

"Russia has destroyed the chemical weapons arsenal in line with international obligations it has taken upon itself. You can't say the same about the NATO countries, for example, the USA," she underlined.

The UK document said the targeted individuals were all members of Russia's FSB security service and were either directly or indirectly involved in the poisoning.

Sanctions on Nord Stream 2 

On Friday, Antonov said US sanctions against the Nord Stream 2 pipeline project carrying Russian gas directly into Germany violate international law.

"From the very beginning, Washington strove to prevent the development of normal energy cooperation between Russia and Europe," Antonov said in statement.

"The unilateral actions of the Americans against the project violate international law and contradict the principle of free market relations. This is nothing more than an attempt to gain a competitive advantage for its fuel and technology suppliers," he added.

The Russian envoy also said Moscow believes that the format for using the Nord Stream 2 pipeline should be determined in Europe, primarily in Germany, and not in the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that the Biden administration has submitted a report to Congress naming one Russian vessel and two Russians upon whom sanctions will be imposed.

The Biden administration has so far identified seven people and 16 entities to be subject to US sanctions for their involvement in the $11-billion Nord Stream 2 project.

The sprawling pipeline project, which would take gas from the Russian Arctic to Germany under the Baltic Sea, is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Europe's largest economy

The project has been beset by sanctions from the US and EU states.

Washington has opposed the project saying it would increase Russia’s economic and political leverage over Europe. Moscow and Germany, however, say Nord Stream 2 is a commercial project. Berlin says it needs gas as it shuts coal and nuclear plants over environmental and safety concerns.

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