The Biden administration sanctioned seven middle- and high-level Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, for a near-fatal nerve agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and subsequent imprisonment.
The measures, which emphasize the use of the Russian nerve agent as a prohibited chemical weapon, marked the first sanctions by the Biden administration against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was the favorite of former President Donald Trump even during the secret Russian and social hacking. Media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the US
Government officials included at least four whom Navalny supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying they were more involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. Yet America’s list did not include any of Russia’s most powerful businessmen and bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West would have to sanction to get Putin’s attention.
Tuesday’s move “was not meant to be a silver bullet or end date for what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “We hope the relationship continues to be challenging. We are prepared for that. “
The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and War Elimination Act for Russian entities, including those the US said were working to research, develop and test chemical weapons.
The US intelligence community concluded with great confidence that the Russian Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said. Russia says it had no role in any attack on the dissident.
‘We will respond in the same way’
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denounced the new US sanctions as part of her “meddling in our internal affairs.”
“We are not going to tolerate that,” Zakharova said in a statement, adding that “we will respond in the same way.”
“Attempts to pressure Russia with sanctions or other tools have failed in the past and will fail again,” he said.
The Biden administration has vowed to confront Putin over alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and alleged malicious actions abroad, including hacking of US government agencies and companies. Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism of the Putin government. That included dismissing US intelligence findings that Russia had backed Trump in his covert campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The administration coordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which joined its own sanctions on Tuesday for the Navalny attack.
The United States and the European Union shared concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“The United States government has exercised its authority to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and the abuse of human rights have serious consequences,” Blinken said in a statement.
People sanctioned by the United States included the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, the Kremlin and defense figures, and Russia’s attorney general.
The Biden administration had predicted for weeks that it would crack down on Russia. In addition to the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian attack by federal government agencies and private corporations that exposed vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite spies. of the Kremlin.
Navalny, 44, fell ill from the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recovery in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested upon arrival for an alleged violation of probation.
His arrest sparked street protests across Russia. The police arrested thousands of protesters. Authorities transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial.
Long a target in the Russian government’s attempts to crack down on dissent, Navalny has repeatedly called on the West to start targeting his country’s most powerful business and financial oligarchs, saying only then would Russian leaders take the decisions seriously. international sanctions.
Russia critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new US sanctions would be “too small and would not affect Putin’s billionaire cronies.”
Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the US measure overdue.
Working with US allies, “we must use a variety of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel and punish Moscow’s transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement.
The US government has previously censured Russian behavior that US officials saw as a violation of international norms.
In 2016, for example, the Obama administration responded to the Kremlin’s interference in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were actually spies and closing two Russian complexes in Maryland and New York.
The Trump administration also took a handful of actions adverse to Moscow, including closing Russian consulates on the West Coast and suspending a nuclear weapons treaty.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism