Alexei Navalny, Joe Biden Photograph:( Reuters )
President Joe Biden's decision to impose sanctions for Navalny's poisoning reflects a harder stance than taken by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who let the incident last August pass without punitive US action
The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on seven senior Russians as it said its intelligence concluded that Moscow was behind the poisoning of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
"The intelligence community assesses with high confidence that officers of Russia's Federal Security Service FSB used a nerve agent known as Novichok to poison Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on August 20, 2020," senior Biden administration officials said.
The sanctions were a response to what the officials said was a Russian attempt to assassinate Navalny last year, an accusation Russia denies.
President Joe Biden's decision to impose sanctions for Navalny's poisoning reflects a harder stance than taken by his predecessor, Donald Trump, who let the incident last August pass without punitive US action.
“The United States is neither seeking to reset our relations with Russia, nor are we seeking to escalate," one official said.
"We believe that the United States and our partners must be clear and impose costs when Russia’s behavior crosses boundaries that are respected by responsible nations, and we believe there should be guard rails on how these adversarial aspects of our relationship play out," the official said.
Navalny fell ill on a flight in Siberia in August and was airlifted to Germany, where doctors concluded he had been poisoned with a nerve agent. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it had seen no proof he was poisoned.
The Kremlin in response said that the US sanctions would not achieve their goal and would merely worsen already strained relations.
In his turn, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that Moscow would respond in kind to any new US sanctions over the treatment of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
EU foreign ministers agreed on February 22 to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in a mainly symbolic response to Navalny's jailing. The EU was expected to formally approve those in early March.
After his medical treatment in Germany, Navalny, 44, returned to Russia in January. He was arrested and later sentenced to more than 2-1/2 years in jail for parole violations he said were trumped up.
Biden last month called the jailing of Navalny "politically motivated" and called for his release. He has pledged a new and tough approach toward Moscow, saying the United States would no longer be "rolling over" in the face of aggressive action by Russia.
Washington and Moscow disagree on a wide range of issues on top of Navalny, such as Russia's military ambitions in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as a cyberattack on U.S. government agencies last year that Washington blames on Russia. Moscow has denied responsibility for the hacking campaign.