The Trump administration said Wednesday it would impose more sanctions against Russia as punishment for its use of a nerve agent in an attempt in March to assassinate British citizen and ex-Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The action is aimed at punishing President Vladimir Putin's government for having "used chemical or biological weapons in violation of worldwide law", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
She accused Washington of picking the nerve agent poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, as a "contrived excuse" for sanctions.
The ruble registered the steepest daily decline in nearly two years, losing as much as 5% against the dollar since the State Department said Wednesday it would impose new sanctions on Russian Federation later this month over the incident.
Zakharova described the new sanctions as an "unfriendly act" and accused the US of trying to "demonize" Russian Federation.
Elaborating in a briefing today, a State Department official said the most significant sanction is "the imposition of a presumption of denial for all national security sensitive goods or technologies that are controlled by the Department of Commerce pursuant to the Export Administration Regulations".
An official said it was only the third time that the United States had determined a country had used chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals.
The US is trying to play up this "anti-Russian topic as a way to continue demonising Russia" and make it appear that it is not fulfilling its global obligations, Ms Zakharova said.
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The Kremlin also denied all accusations that it was involved in the chemical poisoning attack.
While Russia reserved the right to retaliate against new trade restrictions, the U.S. threatened to intensify sanctions within three months, by potentially cutting off almost all exports and imports and banning the Russian airline Aeroflot from flying to the US.
In an early reaction, the Kremlin said the sanctions were illegal and unfriendly, and the US move was at odds with the "constructive atmosphere" of Trump's and Putin's encounter in Helsinki.
But initial triumphalism swiftly turned sour as anger over what some U.S. lawmakers saw as an over deferential performance by Trump and his failure to confront Putin over Moscow's alleged meddling in United States politics galvanised a new sanctions push.
The spokesman said the decision goes against a "constructive" process that began when Putin met with U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki last month.
The U.S. said at the time it was the largest expulsion of Russian spies in American history.
If Russia does not meet three criteria - ending its use of such weapons, assuring the US 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.
On June 30, a British couple were poisoned by Novichok in a nearby town - 44-year-old mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess subsequently died. -Russian relations. A 1991 law, however, mandates sanctions once the president makes a determination that a country is responsible for a chemical or biological weapons attack.