Tough US Sanctions On Russia Over Poisoning And Jailing Aleksey Navalny

The United States has imposed a tough set of sanctions on Russia over the attempted assassination and subsequent imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny.

Announcing the sanctions at a press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. intelligence community assesses with “high confidence” that officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service used a nerve agent to poison Navalny on August 20.

Psaki said the measures were taken also to hold Russia accountable for jailing the opposition leader in January 2021.

The State Department expanded existing sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Department will amend the International Traffic in Arms Regulations to include Russia in the list of countries subject to export restrictions on items that could be used for biological agent and chemical production. He called on the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Alexei Navalny.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on seven top Russian government officials, including the country’s intelligence agency chief Aleksandr Bortnikov and the chief of the Kremlin’s domestic policy directorate, Andrei Yarin. Five of them were previously designated by the European Union and UK for their role in Navalny’s poisoning.

“The Kremlin’s use of chemical weapons to silence a political opponent and intimidate others demonstrates its flagrant disregard for international norms,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The Department of Commerce added 14 Russian entities to the blacklist based on their proliferation activities in support of Russia’s weapons of mass destruction programs and chemical weapons activities.

On August 24, 2020, German doctors announced that Navalny had been poisoned with a substance that international laboratories identified as a Novichok nerve agent. Russia is the only known country to have used this chemical weapon. Russia had used a Novichok nerve agent in the March 2018 attempted assassination of its former military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in United Kingdom.

The United States believes that Russia’s Federal Security Service used a nerve agent to poison Navalny, who fell gravely ill on August 20, 2020 while traveling after campaigning against pro-Kremlin candidates in regional elections. A vehement critic of President Vladimir Putin, Navalny has for many years been the target of FSB surveillance.

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