US, EU impose sanctions on Russian Federation

Andrew Cummings
March 3, 2021

US President Joe Biden's administration is preparing to impose sanctions on Russian Federation for the poisoning and imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, CNN reported Monday.

The EU announced new sanctions Tuesday targeting high-ranking Russian officials over the attack and prosecution of Navalny, Putin's most high-profile political foe. The Russian leader was a favourite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. Some rights groups have faulted the European Union for not targeting the most important Russian officials allegedly involved.

The U.S. Treasury, State and Commerce departments, meanwhile, imposed somewhat broader sanctions that also included penalties for the assassination attempt on Navalny last summer in which he was poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

The sanctions are the first against Russia by the Biden administration, which has pledged to confront President Vladimir Putin for alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and hacking overseas, including of U.S. government agencies and USA businesses.

United States intelligence assessed "with high confidence" that officers of the FSB, successor to the KGB, poisoned Navalny with the nerve agent Novichok on August 20, 2020, a USA official told reporters. "We're prepared for it to be a challenging relationship".

The US government announced on Tuesday its sanctions against Russian Federal Security Service Director Alexander Bortnikov and six other officials. Navalny, impersonating a government security official, later telephoned one of those agents who confessed his role in the attack during their 49-minute conversation.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Kremlin condemned moves to impose sanctions.

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

Anti-Putin campaigners had hoped for sanctions that would put pressure on the Russian economy.

The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin over alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and alleged malign actions overseas, including the hacking of US government agencies and USA businesses.

Biden last month called the jailing of Navalny "politically motivated" and called for his release.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken said 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.

Officials newly targeted Tuesday by both the USA and the European Union included Alexander Kalashnikov, the administrator of Russia's prisons. Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.

His detention sparked street protests across Russian Federation.

The imprisoning of Putin's best-known opponent sparked nationwide protests that saw thousands of demonstrators detained and triggered outrage in the West. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial.

The Russian opposition leader fell ill on board a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20, 2020.

What about "Putin's billionaire cronies"?

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the US move overdue. "Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes worldwide norms". Officials are also debating how to respond to the SolarWinds cyberattack, election interference and Russian bounties for the death of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Biden administration has vowed to confront Putin for the alleged hacking overseas, as well as for alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures.

Other reports by iNewsToday