Biden administration officials say moves against Russia over attempt to kill the Kremlin critic with novichok are in coordination with EU which imposed sanctions on four officials close to President Putin in response to Alexey Navalny’s jailing.
The Biden administration has announced sanctions of Russian officials and businesses related to the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, whose detention drew tens of thousands of protesters out into the streets of Russian cities this winter.
Senior administration officials announced the sanctions but did not immediately identify the Russian officials named in them. The Biden administration also announced sanctions for 14 businesses and another enterprise, most of which it said were involved in production of biological and chemical agents.
Tuesday's sanctions would be the first of several steps by the Biden administration to “respond to a number of destabilising actions,” said one of the administration officials, who briefed reporters on condition they not be identified further.
The sanctions are the first against Russia by the Biden administration, which has pledged to confront President Vladimir Putin for alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and hacking abroad, including of US government agencies and US businesses. President Donald Trump had spoken admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism and many proposed penalties of Putin’s government.
Biden has taken a tougher approach to Putin than Trump.
“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia, nor are we seeking to escalate," one official said.
"We believe that the United States and our partners must be clear and impose costs when Russia’s behaviour crosses boundaries that are respected by responsible nations, and we believe there should be guard rails on how these adversarial aspects of our relationship play out," the official said.
'Massive Russian hack'
The Biden administration coordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which already had imposed sanctions against a small number of Russian officials and is expected to announce more. Some rights groups have faulted the EU for not targeting the most important Russian officials allegedly involved.
The Biden administration had forecast for weeks actions against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies.
Navalny, 44, was sickened last August by a Russian nerve agent, Novichok, in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested upon arrival for an alleged parole violation.
His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial.
Sanctions from EU
The European Union has also imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials over the jailing of Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile political foe.
The 27-nation bloc imposed bans on travel and froze the assets in Europe of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the prosecutor general, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service.
EU headquarters said the four were listed “over their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment.”
The sanctions were the first used by the EU under a new system for imposing restrictions on people and organisations deemed responsible for human rights abuses.