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Bipartisan group of senators call on Trump to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning

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A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday called on the Trump administration to impose new sanctions on Russia over the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a leading opposition figure and prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The call comes after the European Union and the United Kingdom imposed sanctions last week on six top Russian officials, including the chief of Russia’s internal security service and Putin’s deputy chief of staff, over Navalny’s poisoning. 

In a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the lawmakers called for the U.S. to identify the individuals behind Navalny’s attack. 

“Those whom Mr. Navalny has rightly branded as ‘thieves and crooks’ have attempted to silence one of Russia’s last independent voices with this attack,” the senators wrote.

“As this Administration works with partners to identify the individuals behind this crime, the commitment of the United States to deterring such acts is critical,” they added.  

The letter was signed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). 

Navalny, who became gravely ill on a domestic Russian flight, was found to have been poisoned with the Soviet-era chemical nerve agent Novichok, according to German doctors who treated the opposition leader when he was taken to Berlin for treatment. Use of the nerve agent was later confirmed by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 

Navalny has since recovered and, in an interview with CBS’s “60 minutes” that aired Sunday, called on President Trump to condemn the use of the chemical weapon.

“I think it’s extremely important that everyone, of course including and maybe first of all, the president of United States, to be very again[st] using chemical weapons in the 21st century,” Navalny said on the program.

Russian officials have denied accusations that they were behind the attack, raised doubts over the conclusions of Novichok and accused Europe of instituting a smear campaign against Moscow. 

Novichok was earlier identified in the poisoning of the Russian-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English town of Salisbury. The international community, joined by the U.S., responded by imposing sanctions on Russia, expelling diplomats and closing Russian missions. 

“The Putin regime has already shown a willingness to murder its critics in other countries using radioactive materials and chemical weapons,” the senators wrote. “Our efforts to assist those who seek only that their country abide by its own laws and international commitments serve as a powerful signal to all brutal regimes.”

Tags Aleksei Navalny Ben Cardin Chris Coons Dick Durbin Donald Trump Marco Rubio Mike Pompeo Mitt Romney Navalny poisoning Novichok nerve agent Roger Wicker Russia Russian sanctions Steven Mnuchin United States Vladimir Putin
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