The European Union has imposed sanctions on the head of the Russian military intelligence (GRU), his deputy and two agents found responsible for the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal with a neurotoxic agent, Novitchok, in March 2018 in Salisbury.
The sanctioned individuals will be banned from travelling to the EU and any assets they own in its member states will be frozen, EU foreign ministers said in a statement.
They also prevent any person or company in the EU from providing any financial support to those affected.
The GRU is headed by Igor Kostyukov, who has several deputies.
In a separate measure, sanctions were also imposed on five Syrian officials working for the country’s Scientific Studies and Research Centre, which is believed to be responsible for Syria’s chemical weapons programme.
The nine people – four Russians and five Syrians – and the Center for Studies and Scientific Research are the first to be sanctioned under the new regime of restrictive measures against the use and proliferation of chemical weapons created last October, the EU said.
The decision by the Council of Minister’s was taken “on very strong legal bases”, said the head of the European diplomacy Federica Mogherini during a press conference.
“This decision contributes to the EU’s efforts to combat the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, which pose a serious threat to international security,” the statement said.
The Novitchok poisoning in Salisbury, which the Kremlin vehemently denies any involvement in, provoked international outrage and led to massive expulsions of Russian diplomats by Western countries.
In addition to former Russian agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a policeman, two other people were infected in the Salisbury area with the same substance. One of whom, Dawn Sturgess, died after partner, who was also poisoned but survived, gave her perfume bottle he had found, that which turned out to contain the nerve agent.