Biden administration sanctions Russia over Navalny poisoning and arrest

Source: Politico | March 2, 2021 | Natasha Bertrand

“And there will be more to come”: further action on Russian hacks and bounties is expected in the next few weeks.

The Biden administration announced new penalties on Russia on Tuesday in response to the poisoning and jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, in President Joe Biden’s first major step in holding Moscow accountable for human rights abuses.

The U.S. intelligence community has concluded with high confidence that Navalny was poisoned last year with a banned nerve agent called Novichok by the Russian security services, the administration revealed on Tuesday. Navalny received treatment for the poisoning in Germany and was arrested upon his return to Russia in January.

The new penalties were imposed by the Treasury, State and Commerce departments, and included sanctions on seven senior members of the Russian government, an expansion of sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, new export restrictions on items that could be used for biological agent and chemical production, and visa restrictions, the officials said.

The sanctions rollout was closely coordinated with the European Union, which will be taking additional steps on Tuesday to penalize Russia over Navalny’s imprisonment. The EU reached a preliminary agreement last week to sanction four Russian government officials, but Tuesday’s rollout and coordination with the U.S. was “a demonstration of transatlantic unity,” one of the officials said.

Tuesday’s package is only the first the Biden administration will impose on Russia in response to its malign activity, the officials said, and additional penalties will be announced in the coming weeks in response to Russia’s massive hack on U.S. government agencies last year. The administration also plans to respond to intelligence that Russia placed bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, people familiar with the matter said.

“From his first phone call with President Putin, President Biden has been clear that the United States will respond to a number of destabilizing Russian actions,” a senior administration official said Tuesday in a press call previewing the sanctions rollout. The official said the administration had requested “new or declassified intelligence community assessments in four such areas, and plan to respond to each of them in the coming weeks. Today is the first such response, and there will be more to come.”

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