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US sanctions Russia entities over missile, WMD support to blacklisted allies

A Russian Yars RS-24 intercontinental ballistic missile system drives through Red Square in Moscow during the Victory Day military parade on May 9, 2015
Kirill Kudryavtsev (AFP/File)
Russian entities may have been hit over support for Syria's air defense systems

The United States has slapped sanctions on a raft of Russian military institutions under its program to stop Iran, Syria and North Korea developing weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, according to a regulatory filing published Thursday.

Those added to the US government blacklist include Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a surface-to-air missile training facility and a military scientific research center.

“A determination has been made that a number of foreign persons have engaged in activities that warrant the imposition of measures pursuant to ... the Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act,” the filing published on the Federal Register reads.

It says the measures were imposed by the State Department on April 30 and aim to restrict the entities from accessing materials that could be used for the development of weapons of mass destruction and other arms and materials that are controlled under international agreements. They include nuclear, biological, chemical weapons and military parts.

In addition to banning US government sales or assistance to the entities, the sanctions also rule out the granting of export licenses to sell the entities and individuals any items subject to restrictions under the US’s existing export rules.

“All sales to these persons of any defense articles, 5 defense services, or design and construction services under the Arms Export Control Act are terminated,” the filing says.

The State Department has not yet issued an announcement and did not respond to queries sent on Wednesday.

Russia’s foreign ministry, however, was quick to slam the move.

Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File

"Formally, Russia is being accused of breaching US legislation that bans cooperation in defense technology with Iran, North Korea and Syria, and that cannot have any relation to our country," a foreign ministry statement was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.

"Maybe, [they are blacklisted] for training and instructing well the Syrian air defense servicemen who shot down most of western aggressors’ missiles," during an April 14 strike, the foreign ministry suggested, branding the move "a hackneyed desire to be even."

The US launched a missile strike against Syria in after blaming the Syrian government for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians in the town of Douma.

Russia claimed to have intercepted several missiles but the Pentagon said all targets were successfully hit.

Also added to the blacklist are a raft of organizations, companies and people in Iran, China, Syria, North Korea, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

They include Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Shiite militia Hezbollah and Syria’s air force. Most of those appear to have already been subjected to other types of US sanctions aimed at curtailing their ability to access hardware and know-how.

However most of the Russian listings, which include the 183rd Guard Air Defense Missile Regiment, Gatchina Surface-to-Air Missile Training Center, 18th Central Scientific Research Institute and Scientific Research Center have not been previously sanctioned by the US, a federal register search suggests.

One that has previously been sanctioned, KBP Tula, manufactures the Pantsir S1 missile defense system that has been deployed to Syria and was put in action against Western missiles in April.

The filing does not give any detail about the suspicions that prompted the listings but Joshua Pollack, a senior research associate the the James Martin Center for Non-proliferation Studies, said he was "struck by the variety of Russian entities here, especially those related to air defenses. My suspicion is that they are listed here on account of involvement in Syria."

The GRU was sanctioned earlier this year as a part of Washington’s response to what it described as Russia’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 presidential election.

Russian entities and individuals were also hit by US measures after the alleged state-sponsored poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom.

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