The European Union and Britain are imposing sanctions on top Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in an unexpectedly robust response to the August poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Pushed by France and Germany, the sanctions target six Russians and a state scientific research center accused of deploying the banned nerve agent used against the 44-year-old politician.
French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters that Europe, quote ''remains committed to the fight against chemical weapons'' and has called for talks with Moscow.
The Kremlin condemned the sanctions as a deliberate and unfriendly step against Moscow and promised retaliation.
Moscow has rejected accusations that Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-designed Novichok nerve agent in an attempt to murder him and has said there were no grounds for sanctions.
Navalny is still recovering in Germany.