The Biden administration slapped sanctions on Russian officials and businesses on Tuesday, after the US intelligence community concluded that opposition leader Alexei Navalny was nearly killed by a nerve-agent poisoning attack carried out by a Russian spy agency, reports the New York Post.
“The Kremlin’s use of chemical weapons to silence a political opponent and intimidate others demonstrates its flagrant disregard for international norms. We join the EU in condemning Alexei Navalny’s poisoning as well as his arrest and imprisonment by the Russian government,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement announcing the move.
Administration officials did not identify who would be targeted by the sanctions, the first against Moscow by President Joe Biden.
The action was taken in coordination with the European Union, which has already hit some Russian officials with sanctions over Navalny, a top rival of President Vladimir Putin.
“The US is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia, nor are we seeking to escalate,” an administration official said during a conference call with the press ahead of the announcement
The US intelligence community found with a high degree of confidence that Russia’s Federal Security Service poisoned Navalny last August using the Russian nerve agent Novichok.
Navalny returned to Russia in January after recuperating in Germany and was immediately arrested on allegations he violated parole.
The Trump administration leveled sanctions against Russia and expelled a number of diplomats in 2018 for using Novichok to poison Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Britain but did not impose sanctions for Navalny’s poisoning.
Putin has always denied poisoning Navalny, saying if his security services had done the job Navalny would not have survived.
The sanctions are the first of several steps the Biden administration will take to “respond to a number of destabilising actions”.
The Biden administration is also expected to announce sanctions soon against Moscow for the SolarWinds attack in which Russian hackers breached the computer systems of more than a hundred private businesses in the US and scores of federal government agencies, including the treasury and justice departments.