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EU paves way for Russia sanctions for nerve agent attack

Luxembourg - The European Union has agreed on a legal framework to allow sanctions against chemical weapons use, EU foreign ministers have announced.

The move would allow the EU to sanction Russia for its alleged role behind the nerve agent attack on ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British city of Salisbury in March.

Persons and entities

The sanctions will apply to "persons and entities" involved in chemical weapons "anywhere, regardless of their nationality and location," the ministers said in a press release. The measure would also apply to anyone helping or encouraging such attacks.

It is important "to make clear that something like this can't be left unpunished," said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, speaking before a meeting of foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

The new measures include the ability to impose travel bans, asset freezes, and bans on EU citizens or groups from making money available to anyone on the sanctions list.

Accusation and denial

In September, Britain accused two Russian intelligence officers of being responsible for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

Russian officials have denied any involvement in the poisoning despite strong evidence to the contrary.

British prosecutors charged the two suspects in absentia with conspiracy to murder and possession of a chemical weapon.

These restrictions could also be applied against Syria for its alleged attack on the rebel-held city of Douma in April.

Actual sanctions would likely be decided at a later date.

Other topics

Among the other topics that EU foreign ministers are taking up are the efforts to stem migration flows by cooperating with northern African countries, with a view to cracking down on illegal trafficking and preventing deaths at sea.

The EU is seeking to enlist more help from northern African states. Many migrants depart from Libya, where political turmoil and conflict has made it hard for the country to patrol its shores.

In June, EU leaders embraced the concept of so-called disembarkation platforms in northern Africa for migrants rescued at sea. No country has come forward, although Egypt and Morocco have been mentioned as possible partners.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and IOM chief Antonio Vitorino were due to take part in the Luxembourg talks, which will also focus on developments in Libya.