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Biden imposes more sanctions on Russia over Navalny poisoning

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced more sanctions on Russia over the use of chemical weapons against dissidents, including the poisoning of jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny.

The Department of Commerce said it is blocking the export of items controlled for national security reasons that are destined for Russia.

It will also suspend licenses that granted specific exceptions for exports to Russia, targeting replacement parts and equipment, technology and software and “additional permissive reexports.”

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“The Department of Commerce is committed to preventing Russia from accessing sensitive U.S. technologies that might be diverted to its malign chemical weapons activities,” the agency said in a statement.

The export sanctions are expected to take effect on Thursday. However, the Commerce Department did allow for specific exceptions for certain exports that fall under the category of national security grounds up until Sept. 1.

The sanctions are part of the Biden administration's determination that Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, carried out an attack in August on Navalny using the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, the use of which is banned by the international Chemical Weapons Convention.

Navalny is an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinFormer Rep. Rohrabacher says he took part in Jan. 6 march to Capitol but did not storm building Biden looking to build momentum for Putin meeting Hillicon Valley: NATO members agree to new cyber defense policy | YouTube banning politics, elections in masthead ads | 50 groups urge Biden to fill FCC position to reinstate net neutrality rules MORE, known for producing investigative reports on corruption involving Putin and senior government officials.

The administration imposed earlier in March sanctions on seven senior members of the Russian government and export restrictions on several Russian businesses in response to Navalny’s poisoning.

Simon Miles, a professor with Duke University and an expert on Russia and the Soviet Union, said the sanctions make clear the Biden administration’s determination to hold Putin accountable for the use of chemical weapons but that the impact is unclear.

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“These sanctions targeting in particular high-tech components will exacerbate an issue that the Russian economy has, but one which it is making strides in addressing domestically,” he wrote in an email to The Hill.

Miles added that the Biden administration's response to Russia’s alleged use of chemical weapons also comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow, following the release Tuesday of declassified intelligence finding that Putin authorized an influence operation into the 2020 election and the U.S. opposition to a Russian oil pipeline heading for Europe, called Nord Stream 2.

“Taking the Novichok use along with the recently released [intelligence community] report on the actions, authorized by Putin’s Kremlin, to interfere in the 2020 election, it seems to me that the Biden administration will need to think beyond the usual cyclical formula of US sanctions and Russian adaptation going forward and when they think about even bigger questions like The Nord Stream 2 pipeline," he said.

Navalny's poisoning and subsequent arrest in Russia, internationally condemned as politically motivated, galvanized his supporters at home to take to the streets over the course of January and February, protests that were met with strong crackdowns by police.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Moscow after recovering for months in a German hospital from the poisoning attack he suffered in August.

Russian authorities accused Navalny of violating his parole by leaving the country, despite his exit occurring as an emergency evacuation while he was in a coma from the poison attack.

He is currently being held in a prison camp in Russia’s Vladimir region northeast of Moscow, Reuters reported, and which he criticized as a “concentration camp” in a post on Instagram Monday.

He was sentenced to serve 2 1/2 years in the prison camp stemming from the alleged parole violation.