The Biden administration on Tuesday sanctioned seven middle and senior Russian officials, as well as more than a dozen companies and other entities, more than an almost fatal nerve agent attack to opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment.
The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration’s first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was an intimate and a favorite of President Donald Trump, even amid covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the United States.
Government officials included at least four whom Navalny’s supporters had directly called on the West to sanction, saying they were most involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. However, the American list did not include any of Russia’s most powerful businessmen and bankers, oligarchs Navalny has long said the West should sanction to get Putin’s attention.
Tuesday’s step “was not meant to be a quick fix or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We are prepared for it.
The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Elimination of War Act for businesses and other businesses, most of which are involved in the production of biological agents and chemical.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded with great confidence that Russia’s Federal Security Service used Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said.
Russian critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new US sanctions were “far too few in number and not affecting Putin’s billionaire pals.”
Representative Adam Schiff, a Californian Democrat and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, called the US move a delay.
In working with US allies, “we must use a range of tools, including sanctions, to significantly deter, repel and punish Moscow transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement.
The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin in alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and in alleged malicious actions abroad, including the hacking of US government agencies and US companies. Trump spoke with admiration of Putin and resisted criticism from the Putin government. This included rejection of US intelligence conclusions that Russia had supported Trump in his secret campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
The administration coordinated sanctions with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions on Tuesday following the attack on Navalny.
The United States and Europe have shared their concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“The US government has used its powers to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and human rights violations have serious consequences,” Blinken said in a statement.
Those sanctioned by the United States included the head of the Russian Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defense figures, and the Russian Attorney General.
The Biden administration had been planning actions against Russia for weeks. In addition to Navalny’s sanctions, officials said the administration plans to respond soon to massive Russian hacking of federal government agencies and private companies that exposed vulnerabilities in the IT supply chain and exposed secrets potentially sensitive to elite Kremlin spies.
Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recovery in Germany, Navalny returned home to Moscow in January and was stopped on arrival for an alleged violation of parole.
His detention triggered street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial.
Long a target in the Russian government’s attempts to end dissent, Navalny has repeatedly called on the West to start targeting his country’s most powerful business and financial oligarchs, saying then that Russia’s leaders will take the lead. serious international sanctions.
The US government has previously censored Russian behavior that US officials believe violated international standards.
In 2016, for example, the Obama administration responded to the Kremlin’s interference in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were in fact spies and shutting down two Russian complexes in Maryland. and New York.
The Trump administration has also taken a handful of measures unfavorable to Moscow, including shutting down Russian consulates on the west coast and suspending a nuclear weapons treaty.