February 21, 2024

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny stands in a glass cell during a trial on February 20, 2021 in the Babushkinsky District Court in Moscow.

Kirill Kudryavtsev | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – The United States has sanctioned seven members of the Russian government for allegedly poisoning Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny and his subsequent arrest and detention in Moscow.

Washington also imposed sanctions on 14 companies involved in Russia’s chemical and biological industrial base, senior administrative officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday.

Russia’s Military Intelligence Service, known as the GRU, and Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) have been fined for their alleged roles in the poisoning. The GosNIIOKhT, 33rd TsNIII, and 27th Scientific Center have also been sanctioned for developing Russia’s chemical weapons capabilities.

“The Kremlin’s use of chemical weapons to silence political opponents and intimidate others shows its blatant disregard for international norms,” ​​Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a statement. “We join the EU in condemning the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and his arrest and detention by the Russian government,” she added.

State Secretary Antony Blinken wrote in a separate statement that the sanctions would send “a clear signal” to Russia that the use of chemical weapons and human rights violations are having grave consequences.

“Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and violates international standards,” wrote Blinken.

Navalny, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, flew from Berlin to Russia, where he recovered for almost six months from nerve agent poisoning that occurred last August. He was arrested at passport control and later sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Last summer, Navalny was medically evacuated to Germany from a Russian hospital after falling ill after reports that something had been added to his tea. Russian doctors treating Navalny denied the Kremlin critic had been poisoned and blamed his comatose condition for low blood sugar levels.

In September the German government announced that the 44-year-old Russian dissident had been poisoned by a chemical agent for nerves and described the toxicological report as “clear evidence”. The nerve agent was in the Novichok family, which was developed by the Soviet Union. Toxicological tests carried out in France and Sweden also came to the same conclusion.

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied having played a role in Navalny’s poisoning.

Russian President Vladimir Putin enters St. George’s Hall in the Great Kremlin Palace in Moscow.

Mikhail Klimentyev | AFP | Getty Images

At the White House, press secretary Jen Psaki said the sanctions have been coordinated with the European Union and that the Biden administration “expects relations with Russia to remain challenging”.

“We are not trying to reset our relations with Russia, nor do we want to escalate. There is also an ongoing process to review a number of steps related to Russian behavior,” added Psaki.

The sanctions are the first against Russia since Joe Biden became president. They also come when the White House investigates other malicious Russian actions, including the SolarWinds hack, reports of Russian bounties for American troops in Afghanistan, and possible election nuisance.

The Trump administration has taken no action against Russia because of the situation in Navalny.

The European Union first took action against Moscow for poisoning Navalny in October when the agency announced travel restrictions and frozen assets of six Russian people. In solidarity with the United States, the European Union announced new sanctions against Russia.

Before announcing the sanctions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that the measures taken against Russia would further worsen relations between Moscow and Washington.