US President Joe Biden called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated.”(Bloomberg)
US President Joe Biden called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated.”(Bloomberg)

US announces sanctions on Russian officials, businesses for Navalny's poisoning

  • The sanctions are the first ordered by President Joe Biden against Russia and will help set the tone for his relations with Putin.
Bloomberg | | Posted by Kunal Gaurav
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 07:42 PM IST

The Biden administration announced sanctions against Russia over the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

The penalties -- like those adopted by the European Union -- target senior Russian law enforcement officials, as well as matching sanctions the EU and the UK imposed earlier on other Russians allied with President Vladimir Putin as punishment for the attempted murder of Navalny.

The sanctions are the first ordered by President Joe Biden against Russia and will help set the tone for his relations with Putin. The ruble recovered sharply after the news, reversing earlier losses as investors were encouraged by the sanctions’ relatively narrow scope.

The US demands the release of Navalny, his allies and others wrongfully detained in Russia and an end to the persecution of his supporters, one senior administration official told reporters in a briefing.

Viktor Zolotov, the head of Russia’s National Guard; Igor Krasnov, the country’s prosecutor general; Alexander Kalashnikov, the Federal Penitentiary Service chief; and Alexander Bastrykin, who leads the country’s Investigative Committee, are the targets of the EU’s latest penalties, according to three people familiar with that decision.

The 27 EU member states formally adopted the sanctions on Tuesday, according to two officials familiar with the decision. The measures will be published in the afternoon, one of the people said.

The US measures will involve the State, Treasury and Commerce Departments, a senior administration official said in the briefing.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would “definitely respond” to the new restrictions, though he didn’t elaborate.

The targets of EU and UK asset freezes and travel bans in October were Aleksandr Bortnikov, leader of Russia’s domestic spy agency; Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of staff in the presidential administration; Andrei Yarin, head of the presidential administration’s domestic policy directorate; Aleksei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov, two deputy ministers of defense; and Sergei Menyaylo, Putin’s envoy to the Siberian Federal District.

The bloc and the UK also froze the assets of one Russian entity: the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology.

Navalny returned to Russia in January after being treated in Germany for a nerve agent attack. He was detained shortly after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Western governments and Navalny have accused the Kremlin of being behind the attempted assassination. Russia denies that and has said that Navalny’s imprisonment is an internal matter.

Last month, Biden called for Navalny’s release, saying he was “targeted for exposing corruption and should be released immediately and without condition.”

Since then, Navalny has been sentenced and begun serving a two-and-a-half-year term. Last week, he was moved to a notorious penal camp in the Vladimir region about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of the Russian capital.

During his first call with the Russian leader, in late January, Biden said he “made it clear to President Putin in a manner very different from my predecessor that the days of the United States rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber attacks, poisoning citizens are over.”

Biden called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated.” His administration also has Moscow in its sights for what US intelligence agencies indicate was Russia’s likely role in the SolarWinds Corp. cyber attack.

One of the senior administration officials said that punitive actions related to the SolarWinds hack would likely be announced within weeks.

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