US says Russian intelligence behind Navalny poisoning and sanctions multiple officials

Seven government figures blocked from accessing financial assets in the US

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Tuesday 02 March 2021 18:59
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Navalny calls Putin ‘the poisoner’ in final courtroom comments
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The US has concluded that Russian intelligence agencies were behind the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and has imposed sanctions on multiple senior government officials.

Names of the seven members of the Russian government to be sanctioned include Andrei Yarin, the chief of the Kremlin's domestic policy directorate, and Alexander Bortnikov, the director of the Federal Security Service (FSB), according to a statement. They will be blocked from accessing financial assets in the US.

Pavel Popov and Aleksei Krivoruchko, both deputy ministers of defence with responsibility for research and armaments, are also on the list, as is Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of staff to the president’s office.

The final two individuals are Igor Kranov, prosecutor general; and Alexander Kalashnikov, director of the federal penitentiary systems, both responsible for the jailing of Mr Navalny.

In addition, the commerce department will add 14 parties to a list of entities engaged in “activities that are contrary to US national security and foreign policy interests”, CNN reports an official as saying.

These parties were involved in aspects of the production of biological and chemical agents. Export restrictions will also be expanded on items that could be used in the manufacturing process of chemical weapons under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Act.

This mirrors a move by the European Union and the UK in late 2020 that the Trump administration declined to join. Donald Trump did not want to assign blame for the attack on Russia’s de facto opposition leader.

In essence, the US is catching up to be in full coordination with its allies to form a united response to Russia’s actions.

The new US sanctions are based on the findings of US intelligence investigations into the poisoning of Mr Navalny in August 2020. They found with “high confidence” that the Russian state had ordered the attack using the nerve agent Novichok – as earlier confirmed by several toxicology tests in Europe.

A separate response to the SolarWinds attack by Russian hackers of US government agencies and more than 100 private companies is expected in the coming weeks.

Senior US government officials told reporters that the Biden administration is not doing a “reset” and that they expect the relationship with Russia to be “challenging”.

“How challenging it is will depend on whether Russia continues to take actions that are outside the norms of international behaviour,” said one official.

“The tone and substance of our conversations with Russia and our conversations about Russia will be very different from what you saw in the previous administration.”

After his poisoning, Mr Navalny received treatment in Germany where he recovered, before returning to Moscow earlier in 2021.

He was arrested on arrival and has been sentenced to two years in prison for parole violations, charges that his supporters say are politically motivated. Shortly after the sentencing, he was transferred to a penal colony.

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