By Lalit K Jha
(Eds: Updating with more inputs and reax)
Washington, Mar 3 (PTI) The US has slapped sanctions on seven senior Russian officials, including some close to President Vladimir Putin, over the attempted assassination of Opposition leader Alexei Navalny using a deadly nerve agent, and his subsequent jailing.
The sanctions announced in coordination with the European Union (EU)are the first announced by the Joe Biden administration against associates of President Putin.
Those targeted include Alexander Bortnikov, who heads the Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia”s main intelligence agency, as well as deputy Defence Ministers Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov.
The US intelligence community assesses with high confidence that officers of the FSB used a nerve agent to poison the Opposition leader on August 20, 2020, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday.
“The use of any chemical weapon directly violates international legal obligations and norms of civilised conduct and our actions today fall into a number of categories and reflect a whole of government response. We are also working with the Congress to ensure we are faithfully implementing the Chemical and Biological Weapons Act,” she said.
“Today, the US is announcing sanctions on seven senior members of the Russian government, an expansion of sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act, new export restrictions on items that could be used for biological agent and chemical production and visa restrictions,” Psaki said.
“As a demonstration of our transatlantic unity and cooperation with partners over the ocean, many of the actions we are taking are the steps the European Union took in October and match additional EU measures being taken today,” she said.
Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent Novichok in an attack that the US and others linked to Putin”s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested on arrival for an alleged parole violation.
His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Authorities have transferred the Opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence.
“We also reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny,” Psaki said.
Reacting to the US actions, Russia said the Biden administration has teamed up with the EU to make a hostile move towards it by announcing new sanctions “to punish Moscow.”
Having become enmeshed in its own domestic problems, the White House is again trying to cultivate the image of an external enemy, Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a statement in Moscow.
“We have repeatedly commented on this US policy which lacks logic and common sense. It is increasingly aggravating bilateral relations that Washington has already brought to a complete halt,” she said.
“Absurdity triumphs when the reason behind the sanctions is based on Alexey Navalny’s alleged “poisoning” with some toxic “chemical warfare” agent. This is just a pretext for the continuing undisguised interference in our domestic affairs, and we will not accept this.
“Based on the principle of reciprocity, we will respond but not necessarily with symmetrical measures,” she warned.
Meanwhile, the US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that by taking such a step, President Biden is sending a strong and unmistakable message to the Kremlin and to the world: that the era of impunity for “Moscow”s assault on the rule of law is over”.
“The attempted murder of anti-corruption activist Navalny is a profound violation of human rights that demonstrates Moscow”s utter determination to silence the voices of reform,” she said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia”s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences. Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes international norms, he said.
“The US joins the European Union in condemning and responding to the Russian Federation”s use of a chemical weapon in the attempted assassination of Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment.
“We share the EU”s concerns regarding Russia”s deepening authoritarianism and welcome the EU”s determination to impose sanctions on Russia under its new global human rights authorities,” he added.
Among actions being taken by the US include termination of assistance to Russia under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, except for urgent humanitarian assistance and food or other agricultural commodities or products; termination of arms sales to Russia; denial to Russia of any credit, credit guarantees, or other financial assistance by any department, agency, or instrumentality of the US government, including the Export-Import Bank of the US.
The Department of State added six entities to the Countering America”s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) Section 231 List of Specified Persons as persons that are part of, or operate for or on behalf of, the defence or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation.
Congressman Adam Schiff, Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said that even by the standards of Putin”s Russia, the attempted murder of Navalny, followed by his imprisonment, was a brazen attempt to silence a voice that has powerfully advocated for democratic reforms, “something that Putin so clearly fears”.
“Today”s announcement sends a clear signal of accountability that the US will not turn a blind eye to those who use these terrible weapons, especially against their own people,” said Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It also sends an important message of solidarity with our European allies who have taken similar steps in response to this brutal attack,” he added. PTI LKJ CK AKJ AKJ
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Bollyinsidestaff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI
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