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The US announces sanctions on Russian officials, businesses for Navalny's poisoning

Sanctions are the first that President Joe Biden has ordered against Russia and will help set the tone for his relations with Putin.

The Biden administration announced sanctions against Russia over the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

The penalties -- like those adopted by the European Union -- target senior Russian law enforcement officials, as well as matching sanctions the EU and the UK imposed earlier on other Russians allied with President Vladimir Putin as punishment for the attempted murder of Navalny.

The sanctions are the first ordered by President Joe Biden against Russia and will help set the tone for his relations with Putin. The ruble recovered sharply after the news, reversing earlier losses as investors were encouraged by the sanctions’ relatively narrow scope.

The US demands the release of Navalny, his allies, and others wrongfully detained in Russia and an end to the persecution of his supporters, one senior administration official told reporters in a briefing.

Viktor Zolotov, head of the Russian National Guard; Igor Krasnov, the country's attorney general; Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Penitentiary Service; and Alexander Bastrykin, head of the country's Investigative Committee, are the targets of the latest EU sanctions, according to three people familiar with that decision.

The 27 EU Member States formally adopted the sanctions on Tuesday, according to two officials who were familiar with the decision. The measure will be published in the afternoon, one of the people said.

The US measures will involve the State, Treasury, and Commerce Departments, a senior administration official said in the briefing.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would “definitely respond” to the new restrictions, though he didn’t elaborate.

The targets of EU and UK asset freezes and travel bans in October were Aleksandr Bortnikov, leader of Russia’s domestic spy agency; Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of staff in the presidential administration; Andrei Yarin, head of the presidential administration’s domestic policy directorate; Aleksei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov, two deputy ministers of defense; and Sergei Menyaylo, Putin’s envoy to the Siberian Federal District.

The Bloc and the United Kingdom also froze the assets of one Russian entity: the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology.

Navalny returned to Russia in January after being treated for a nerve agent attack in Germany. He was detained shortly after landing at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. Western governments and Navalny accused the Kremlin of being behind the assassination attempt. Russia denies this and has said that Navalny's imprisonment is an internal matter.

Last month, Biden called for Navalny's release, saying he was "targeted to expose corruption and should be released immediately and unconditionally."

Since then, Navalny has been sentenced and started serving a two-and-a-half-year term. He was transferred to a notorious prison camp in the Vladimir region some 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of the Russian capital last week.

During his first call with the Russian leader at the end of January, Biden said, "He made it clear to President Putin in a very different way from my predecessor that the days of the United States are over in the face of Russia's aggressive actions, interference with our elections, cyber-attacks, citizens' poisoning."

Biden called the jailing of Navalny “politically motivated.” His administration also has Moscow in its sights for what US intelligence agencies indicate was Russia’s likely role in the SolarWinds Corp. cyber attack. One of the senior administration officials said that punitive actions related to the SolarWinds hack would likely be announced within weeks.

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