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US sanctions Russia over poisoning of opposition leader Navalny

Biden administration says the measures are the first of several steps to ‘respond to a number of destabilizing actions’; doesn’t identify the targeted Russians

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a class cage during a hearing in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, February 2, 2021. (Moscow City Court via AP)
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a class cage during a hearing in the Moscow City Court in Moscow, Russia, February 2, 2021. (Moscow City Court via AP)

AP — The Biden administration announced sanctions of Russian officials and businesses Tuesday for a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack upon opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.

Senior administration officials did not immediately identify the Russian officials targeted. The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for 13 businesses and another enterprise, most of which it said were involved in production of biological and chemical agents.

The US intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russia’s Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on the dissident last August, a senior administration official said.

Tuesday’s sanctions would be the first of several steps by the Biden administration to “respond to a number of destabilizing actions,” said one of the administration officials, who briefed reporters on the condition they not be identified further.

Then US Vice President Joe Biden, left, shakes hands with then Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, March 10, 2011. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

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 abroad, including of US government agencies and US businesses. Former president Donald Trump had spoken admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism and many proposed penalties of Putin’s government.

The Biden administration coordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which already had imposed sanctions against a small number of Russian officials in Navalny’s case.

Some rights groups previously faulted the EU for not targeting the most important Russian officials allegedly involved. The European bloc announced new sanctions Tuesday targeting high-ranking Russian officials over the jailing of Navalny, Putin’s most high-profile political foe.

The 27-nation bloc imposed bans on travel and froze the assets in Europe of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation; Igor Krasnov, the prosecutor-general; Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard; and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service.

The Biden administration had forecast for weeks actions against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies.

People attend a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, on January 31, 2021. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested upon arrival for an alleged parole violation.

His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial.

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