The US has taken a strict measure of imposing sanctions on senior Russian officials over the charge of the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The procedures, which target Russia’s topmost spy and six others, are being coordinated with similar European Union moves. US officials mark intelligence had resolved that the Moscow government was after the near-fatal nerve agent attack on Navalny the previous year. Alexei Navalny is the most high-profile critic of President Vladimir Putin.

Moscow, however, rebuffs involvement in his poisoning and disputes the inference that Navalny was poisoned with a Novichok agent while on a flight in Siberia.

The word Novichok – “newcomer” in Russian – relates to a group of nerve agents made in a lab by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They paralyze muscles and can lead to death by suffocation.

Actions by the US

The US has imposed sanctions on seven senior Russian officials and 14 entities named in chemical and biological production, as said by the administration officials.

“Russia’s attempt to kill Mr Navalny follows an alarming pattern of chemical weapons use by Russia,” one official remarked.

The use of Novichok was made in 2018 attack in the English city of Salisbury against a Russian evacuated double-agent and his daughter.

When somebody is sanctioned, it leads to the freezing of their assets in the US. With the US doing so for Russia officials, Alexander Bortnikov heads the FSB, Russia’s leading intelligence agency, and the deputy Defence Ministers Alexei Krivoruchko Pavel Popov.

The decision of sanctions on Russia came the first by the administration of President Joe Biden. The stance is more rigid than his predecessor Donald Trump towards President Putin.

After phoning his Russian equivalent last month, Mr Biden mentioned he had made it clear the days of the US “rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive actions, interfering with our elections, cyber-attacks, poisoning citizens are over”.

About Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny is an anti-corruption activist and has long been the most projecting face of Russian opposition to Mr Putin’s rule.

He has millions of followers on social media. The 44-year-old managed to get some of his supporters elected to councils in Siberia in 2020.

During his flight t Siberia in August 2020, Navalny was poisoned where he fell into a coma. Pot this he was airlifted to Germany, and he recovered there. In January, he decided to come back to Russia, where he was arrested on arrival.

A court last month observed that Navalny had dishonoured the terms of an earlier sentence for embezzlement by not coming to the probation office while he was being treated in Germany.

His deferred sentence took the shape of an actual prison term of two-and-a-half years. Last week he was sent from custody in Moscow to a penal colony to serve out the sentence.

Navalny and his supporters claim that all charges against him are politically motivated. President Biden and EU leaders have asked for his immediate release.

What does the European Union say?

In a synchronized move, the EU pronounced on Tuesday, 2 Mar, that it had targeted four Russian government officials.

This includes Alexandr Kalashnikov, the head of the Russian prison system, Alexandr Bastrykin, chairman of the Investigative Committee, Chief Prosecutor Igor Krasnov, and Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard. The sanctions comprise travel bans and asset freezes.

Reaction by Moscow

The Russian government answered before the US and EU moves were established.

Early on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov restated his assertion that the West was “hiding the facts that could help understand what had happened” to Navalny and was falsely punishing Russia.

“We have repeatedly expressed our position in regards to illegitimate unilateral sanctions that… are used by the colleagues from the United States and those who take an example from them, the European Union,” he mentioned.

His government would respond in kind to any sanctions, he further added.