US expected to sanction Russians for Navalny poisoning

In contrast to his predecessor, Biden promises a tougher approach to any aggressive moves by Russia.

Navalny was airlifted to Germany for treatment after falling violently ill on a flight in Russia. Doctors in Berlin concluded he has been poisoned with a nerve agent [File: Instagram account @navalny/AFP]

The United States is expected to impose sanctions as early as Tuesday on Russians connected with the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny, two sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

President Joe Biden’s decision to impose sanctions for Navalny’s poisoning reflects a harder stance than taken by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who let the incident last August pass without punitive US action.

The sources declined to identify the targets or the legal authorities Washington would use to penalise them as it seeks to impose consequences for the poisoning of Navalny. The critic of the Kremlin fell ill on a flight in Siberia last August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent.

The sources said on Monday on condition of anonymity that the US was expected to act under two executive orders: 13661, which was issued after Russia’s invasion of Crimea but provides broad authority to target Russian officials, and 13382, issued in 2005 to combat the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Both orders let the United States freeze the US assets of those targeted and effectively bar US companies and individuals from dealing with them.

The sources said the Biden administration also planned to act under the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, which provides a variety of punitive measures.

The sources said some individuals would be targeted in the sanctions to be announced as early as Tuesday, but declined to name them or say what other sanctions may be imposed.

They added, however, that Washington would maintain waivers allowing foreign aid and certain export licenses for Russia.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possibility of sanctions.

Top United Nations human rights experts said on Monday was to blame for attempting to kill Navalny as part of a pattern of attacks on critics to quash dissent.

Many Western countries have said Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent, but the Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and has said it has seen no proof that he was poisoned.

After his treatment in Germany, 44-year-old Navalny returned to Russia in January. He was arrested and later sentenced to more than two and a half years in jail for parole violations that he said were trumped up.

Biden, who took office as US president in January, last month called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated” and called for his release. He has pledged a new and tough approach towards Moscow, saying the US would no longer be “rolling over” in the face of aggressive action by Russia.

Washington and Moscow disagree on a wide range of issues on top of Navalny, such as Russia’s military ambitions in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as a cyber-attacks on US government agencies last year that Washington blames on Russia.

Source: Reuters