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White House to hit Russia with ‘major sanctions’ in response to Navalny’s death

‘Regardless of the scientific answer, Putin’s responsible for it,’ National Security Council spokesman John Kirby says of opposition leader’s death

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Tuesday 20 February 2024 18:17 GMT
Related video: Biden considering more sanctions against Russia

The White House has announced that a new package of sanctions against Russia is set to go into effect following the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Siberian prison camp.

The administration said the package would be released on Friday. This comes after President Joe Biden’s comments to reporters on Monday that he was considering new sanctions.

“We already have sanctions, but we are considering additional sanctions, yes,” he said.

On Friday, Mr Biden blamed the death of Mr Navalny on Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that while the US was unsure what took place, it was “a consequence of something that Putin and his thugs did”.

That was after Russian prison authorities announced earlier on Friday that Mr Navalny “felt unwell” after going for a walk and became unconscious “almost immediately”.

On Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby declined to share any details regarding the new sanctions or how they would interact with the strong sanctions already put in place following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.

Mr Kirby said the sanctions will be “specifically supplemented with additional sanctions regarding Mr Navalny’s death,” according to the AP.

While he noted that the US doesn’t yet know Mr Navalny’s cause of death, Mr Kirby went on to put the blame Mr Putin.

“Regardless of the scientific answer, Putin’s responsible for it,” he told the press.

The opposition leader’s widow Yulia Navalnaya lives in exile outside Russia. On Monday, she accused Russian authorities of hiding her husband’s body and “refusing to give it to his mother”.

She also accused the Kremlin of poisoning Mr Navalny, adding that they were keeping his remains to let the traces of the poison dissipate. The Kremlin was also accused of poisoning Mr Navalny in 2020, which led to his hospitalisation in Germany.

Upon being released from care, Mr Navalny and his wife returned to Russia, where he was promptly arrested at a Moscow airport.

Mr Biden told the press he was weighing “a whole number of options” after the announcement of Mr Navalny’s death last week.

The president also used the opposition leader’s death to argue for more aid for Ukraine in the face of indiscriminate violence and attacks on dissent from the Russian state.

On Monday, a reporter asked Mr Biden: “Would you go as far as to say that Alexei Navalny’s blood is on the hands of House Republicans right now?”

“I wouldn’t use that term,” he said. “They’re making a big mistake not responding. Look, the way they’re walking away from the threat of Russia, the way they’re walking away from Nato, the way they’re walking away from meeting our obligations, it’s just shocking. I mean, they’re wild. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Asked if Mr Navalny’s death could push House Republicans to take up Ukraine aid, Mr Biden said: “I hope so. But I’m not sure anything is going to change.”

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