European Union sanctions Russian officials linked to Navalny’s imprisonment

Marco Green
Марта 3, 2021

The Biden administration imposed a raft of sanctions on Russian officials and entities on Tuesday in response to the poisoning and imprisonment of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. The U.S. and our allies should invoke the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention to demand inspections of Putin's facilities that produced the nerve agents involved in Navalny's poisoning.

Those targeted include Alexander Bortnikov, who heads the FSB, Russia's main intelligence agency, as well as deputy Defence Ministers Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov.

As part of the US measures, the Commerce Department also added 14 parties to its entity list on Tuesday that were determined to be involved in "various aspects of biological agent production and chemical production", one official said.

Tuesday's step "was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a hard relationship with Russia", White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

"We expect this to be a challenging relationship", the official said. "We're prepared for it to be a challenging relationship".

Tuesday's sanctions would be the first of several steps by the Biden administration to "respond to a number of destabilizing actions", said one of the administration officials, who briefed reporters on the condition they not be identified further.

In Tuesday's conference call, officials also announced that a USA intelligence assessment had concluded with "high confidence" that Russian intelligence officers "used a nerve agent known as Novichok to poison Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on August 20, 2020".

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denounced the new US sanctions as part of its "meddling in our internal affairs".

His government would respond in kind to any sanctions, he added.

Mr Biden has pledged to confront Mr Putin for alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and hacking overseas, including of U.S. government agencies and USA businesses. Former president Donald Trump had spoken admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism and many proposed penalties of Putin's government. The European bloc announced new sanctions Tuesday targeting high-ranking Russian officials over the jailing of Navalny, Putin's most high-profile political foe.

"The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia's use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences", Blinken said in a statement.

The individuals sanctioned by the US included the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defense figures, and Russia's prosecutor general.

This is the first step by the Biden administration to respond to what it calls Russia's "malign" activity. A response to the SolarWinds cyber hack, believed to be of Russian origin, is also under review, with an announcement expected within weeks, the officials said.

The United Nations also refuted claims by Russian state media that falsely accused Navalny of hate speech towards migrants.

Navalny was jailed immediately upon his return to Russian Federation earlier this year from Germany, where he was treated and recovered from the poisoning attack. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators.

Navalny has been transferred to a Russian penal colony to begin serving a sentence.

Some rights groups previously faulted the European Union for not targeting the most important Russian officials allegedly involved. The officials said the USA was catching up with measures the European Union had taken earlier and mirroring others it was taking now.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the US move overdue.

Working with USA allies, "we must use an array of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel, and punish Moscow's transgressions", Schiff said in a statement.

Senior administration officials did not immediately identify the Russian officials targeted.

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