Biden sanctions Russians over Putin opponent Alexei Navalny’s poisoning, attempted murder

WASHINGTON – The U.S. is imposing new sanctions on Russia in response to the poisoning and continued detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reiterating its call for the Kremlin critic’s release from prison, senior administration officials announced Tuesday.

The U.S. is sanctioning seven senior members of the Russian government and adding 14 parties to the Department of Commerce’s “entity list,” mirroring sanctions imposed earlier by the European Union and the United Kingdom for the attempted murder of Nalvany. The sanctions prevent top figures allied with Russian President Vladimir Putin from accessing financial assets in the U.S.

The intelligence community determined with “high confidence” that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) used the nerve agent Novichok to poison Navalny last August, according to officials. Russia has denied accusations that it was behind the attack.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as he stands behind a grass of the cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021. A Moscow court has rejected Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's appeal against his prison sentence. Earlier this month, a lower court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Navalny returned to Russia in January after recovering from the nerve agent attack in Germany. He was detained shortly after his arrival in Moscow and sentenced to two years and eight months in prison for violating terms of his probation while he was treated in Germany.

The sanctions are the first ordered by President Joe Biden against Moscow as the administration reassesses relations with Putin and considers punitive action over Navalny’s attempted assassination, the SolarWinds cyber hack and reported bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The sanctions, though largely symbolic, signal a new approach from the previous administration, officials said. The Trump administration declined to punish Russia over Nalvany’s poisoning last summer despite international outrage over the attack.

“We expect this to be a challenging relationship, we are prepared for it to be a challenging relationship,” a senior administration official told reporters on a briefing call. “We’re not seeking to escalate, we’re not seeking to reset. We’re seeking stability and predictability and areas of constructive work with Russia where it is in our interest to do that.”

Officials added that they anticipate more sanctions against Russia for the SolarWinds cyber hack that “will be announced sooner rather than later.”

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