BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union ambassadors agreed on Wednesday to impose sanctions on nine individuals and one entity accused of chemical weapons attacks, including two Russian men blamed for poisoning a former Russian double agent in Britain, two diplomats said.
The travel bans and asset freezes, which will also hit two other Russians and five Syrians, are set to be approved by EU foreign ministers at their regular monthly meeting in Brussels on Monday.
Diplomats said Britain put forward the names of two Russian men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, charging that they attempted to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia by spraying a chemical weapon on Skripal’s front door in the English city of Salisbury last March.
The men have denied any involvement in the attack.
Those targeted are the first names to be added to a new EU mechanism to punish chemical weapons attacks using banned munitions, regardless of their nationality.
Banned two decades ago under an international treaty, the rising use of nerve agents has alarmed Western governments, with recent cases including the attempted murder of Russian double agent Skripal.
Skripal, 66, a former colonel in Russia’s military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4 last year.
The two men set to be sanctioned, who London says are Russian military intelligence officers, stand accused by Britain of flying to England and trying to murder Skripal. The men say they were innocent tourists who had visited the city of Salisbury to see its cathedral.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Toby Chopra)