The European Union announced Thursday that it is sanctioning six Russian officials and one organization over the August poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the harshest rebuke yet over the incident.
The sanctions target some of Moscow’s highest-ranking officials, indicating the EU’s acceptance of findings that the Kremlin itself ordered Navalny’s poisoning. The penalties include an EU travel ban and an asset freeze.
Among those penalized are Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, which oversees domestic security, a role previously held by the KGB, and Sergey Kiriyenko, Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails Overnight Hillicon Valley — Ex-US intel operatives pay to settle hacking charges General promises 'surge' to fight ransomware attacks MORE’s deputy chief of staff.
The sanctions also target Andrei Yarin, the head of the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate; Sergei Menyailo, an official in Siberia, where Navalny was poisoned; Pavel Popov, a deputy Defense minister; Alexei Krivoruchko, another deputy Defense minister; and the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology.
The United Kingdom says it is also applying the sanctions and will continue to do so after a post-Brexit transition period at the end of the year.
“Today’s asset freezes and travel bans significantly punish Russia’s reckless and malign behaviour,” the U.K. Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The UK and its partners have agreed that there is no plausible explanation for Mr. Navalny’s poisoning, other than Russian involvement and responsibility. Russia must hold a full and transparent investigation into the poisoning of one of its citizens on its soil with a banned chemical weapon.
“The sanctions, which are now in force, send a strong signal that there are consequences for the use of chemical weapons and the threat their use poses to the rules-based international system, designed to keep us all safe.”
Russian officials have denied any involvement in Navalny’s poisoning and pushed back against the sanctions, saying they “inflicted damage” on the E.U.’s relations with Russia.
“Moscow will analyze the situation and will act in accordance with its own interests,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press, adding that “no logic can be seen in such a decision” by the EU.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov previewed retaliatory measures.
“The EU is increasingly replacing the art of diplomacy with sanctions. Clearly, the bad example of the United States is contagious. We see this not just as a bad example by the Americans, but also as a result of direct U.S. pressure on its European allies and colleagues. Indeed, what we are saying now is that we want to understand what the EU is trying to accomplish. But this EU policy will not remain without consequences,” he said at a Wednesday press conference before the penalties were finalized.
Navalny is believed to have been poisoned in Siberia in August when he drank tea laced with the nerve agent Novichok, which had been used previously in an attempted assassination of an ex-Russian spy in the United Kingdom that is also believed to have been ordered by Moscow. He has since been recovering in Berlin.
In an interview with "60 Minutes" set to air on Sunday, Navalny calls on President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right MORE, who has expressed skepticism about Moscow's involvement in the incident, to condemn the use of Novichok.
“I think it’s extremely important that everyone, of course including and maybe first of all president of United States, to be very against using chemical weapons in the 21st century,” Navalny told CBS News.