Alexei Navalny: US imposes sanctions on Russians

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Intl desk, Mar 03: The US has imposed sanctions on senior Russian officials over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The measures, which target Russia’s top spy and six others, are being co-ordinated with similar moves by the European Union.

US officials said intelligence had concluded that the Moscow government was behind the near-fatal nerve agent attack on Navalny last year.

He is the most high-profile critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow denies involvement in his poisoning and disputes the conclusion, by Western weapons experts, that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok agent during a flight in Siberia.

The term Novichok – “newcomer” in Russian – applies to a group of nerve agents developed in a lab by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They paralyse muscles and can lead to death by asphyxiation.

Sanctions are being imposed on seven senior Russian officials and 14 entities involved in chemical and biological production, administration officials said.

“Russia’s attempt to kill Mr Navalny follows an alarming pattern of chemical weapons use by Russia,” one official said.

Novichok was used in a 2018 attack in the English city of Salisbury against a Russian exiled double-agent and his daughter.

Under the sanctions, the assets of the officials in the US are frozen.

Those targeted include Alexander Bortnikov, who heads the FSB, Russia’s main intelligence agency, as well as deputy Defence Ministers Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov.

The sanctions are the first imposed on Russia by the administration of President Joe Biden. He has taken a tougher stance than his predecessor Donald Trump towards President Putin.

After phoning his Russian counterpart last month, Mr Biden said he had made it clear the days of the US “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks, poisoning citizens are over”.

The move follows an earlier series of EU sanctions. In October the bloc imposed travel bans and asset freezes on six Russian officials, including Mr Bortnikov, accused of involvement in the poisoning.

A chemical weapons research centre was also targeted. Russia responded with tit-for-tat sanctions.

Source: News Agencies