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.
However, the second tranche, activated after 90 days if Moscow fails to provide "reliable assurances" it will no longer use chemical weapons and allow on-site inspections by the United Nations or other worldwide observer groups, is more serious.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia survived nerve-agent poisoning in Britain after spending weeks in hospital.
She said sanctions would take effect on or around August 22.
The State Department's surprise announcement of the new sanctions on Wednesday jolted Moscow, where some politicians and analysts had been hopeful that Putin's meeting with President Trump in Helsinki in July would stabilize U.S.
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce, who had pushed months ago for Trump to take action over Russia's use of banned weapons, applauded the move as "key to increasing pressure on Russian Federation".
Analysts in Moscow said it was highly unlikely that Putin would allow inspectors to enter the country to head off the additional sanctions, since doing so would look like succumbing to USA pressure. One of them died.
The move was announced today by the USA state department.
"Trump is the master of media manipulation, and the decision to sanction Russia over the Skripal assassination attempt comes, not coincidentally, as pressure mounts on the president to react to the widespread condemnation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election", Professor Michael Cullinane, a reader in U.S. history at the University of Roehampton, told i. He added that the new sanctions amount to "inflicting a punishment in the absence of a crime in the tradition of lynch law".
"We consider categorically unacceptable the linking of new restrictions, which we as before consider illegal, to the case in Salisbury", Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on August 9.
Russia is already under USA sanctions for its 2014 invasion of Crimea, and the Trump administration expelled 60 Russians from the US and shuttered the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to the failed assassination attempt.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said the sanctions would send "an unequivocal message to Russian Federation that its provocative, reckless behaviour will not go unchallenged".
"The administration is rightly acting to uphold global bans on the use of chemical weapons", said Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
"You can impose sanctions against another state because you want to see a change in behaviour of the other state", says Professor Moritz Pieper, a lecturer in worldwide relations at the University of Salford.
Britain said it welcomed the United States response to the chemical attack in Salisbury, the sleepy English town where the Skripals were poisoned.
The Guardian this week reported the Government is set to submit an extradition request to Moscow for two Russians suspected of carrying out the Salisbury nerve agent attack.