US Sanctions Russia for Poisoning of Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny

The U.S. Department of State and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced today that it would implement a second round of sanctions against Russia for the 2020 poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Citing the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991, the U.S. will restrict the import of Russian firearms and deny permits for the permanent importation of firearms coming from the country. The sanctions will also curb the exportation of nuclear and missile-related goods and technology.

Navalny's poisoning by the chemical nerve agent Novichok is suspected to have occurred sometime during his trip from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow. After receiving initial treatment in the city of Omsk, Navalny was transferred to a Berlin hospital where he was temporarily placed in a medically-induced coma. Upon his recovery, Navalny returned to Russia and was imprisoned for allegedly violating his conditions of parole associated with his 2014 embezzlement charges, charges critics say were politically motivated.

Supporters Of Alexei Navalny Gather In Berlin,
Alexei Navalny was arrested immediately after returning to Russia from Berlin where he received treatment. Above, protesters hold a banner reading "FREE NAVALNY" in front of the Federal Chancellery on January 23, 2021, in Berlin, Germany.

Navalny has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of carrying out the attack, saying, "I have no other explanation for what happened." The new sanctions follow sanctions imposed in March of this year, as well as in 2019 and 2018 for the Novichok poisonings of British-Russian double agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter.

"Today, on the one-year anniversary of Aleksey Navalny's poisoning by Russian government agents, we stand with our ally, the United Kingdom, to again condemn the Kremlin's use of a chemical weapon to target one of Russia's most prominent opposition leaders," Andrea Gacki, director of OFAC, said in a statement. "Navalny's poisoning was a shocking violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons and was part of an ongoing campaign to silence voices of dissent in Russia."

Along with implementing these sanctions, OFAC designated two entities and nine individuals as being involved in the matter. These entities include the FSB Criminalistics Institute, of which a majority of individuals involved in the poisoning either worked for or collaborated with, as well as the State Institute for Experimental Military Medicine, which has allegedly engaged in the development of chemical weapons. The nine individuals identified worked for either institution, seven having worked for the former.

Navalny has also called out Putin for alleged corruption, saying his party is full of "crooks and thieves." Following his arrest, Navalny's team released the documentary Putin's Palace on YouTube that looks at the president's compound near the black sea that he claims was gifted to him by rich associates. The video has received over 100 million views. Since being imprisoned, Navalny claims his jailers have tortured him through sleep deprivation.