The US and the United Kingdom are punishing Russians who allegedly played a role in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny exactly one year ago today.
According to the British and Americans, the Russian security service FSB was behind the poisoning, according to Navalny, president Putin himself was the principal. The Russians who are now being punished will be subject to travel restrictions and will no longer be able to access assets under American and British jurisdiction.
In March, the US already punished seven Russians, thirteen Russian companies and an Institute of the Russian government, for being involved in the development of the nerve gas Novichok, which nearly killed Navalny last year.
Now there are nine Russians and two legal entities. Eight of those Russians would be members of the FSB.
“The poisoning was a shocking violation of the international rule against the use of chemical weapons and part of a campaign to silence dissident voices in Russia,” says the responsible director of the US Treasury.
The British punish seven Russians. Almost certainly the seven are also on the American sanctions list. According to the British Foreign Office, they were “directly responsible for planning and carrying out the attack”. The British have also imposed sanctions on Russians for the poisoning of Navalny.
Navalny himself calls on Western countries to put pressure on Russian leaders like President Putin, by confronting them with corruption in their country, “even if it gets uncomfortable.” He writes this from prison in a letter published today in newspapers. According to him, corruption is the cause of all major crises in the world.
“In 90 percent of cases, stolen money is stored in the West. A civil servant working for an autocrat knows better than anyone how important it is to keep his capital away from his colleagues and boss,” writes Navalny.
According to him, the West should force companies to be more transparent when doing business with authoritarian and corrupt countries. He also called for an international anti-corruption body to be set up in order to combat it effectively. “It doesn’t take soldiers or tons of money”, writes Navalny, “[it only takes] political will.”
It’s been a year since Navalny suddenly got sick on a plane over Siberia. His flight had to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was hospitalized. After being unconscious for two days and after repeated pressure from his family and his caretakers, Navalny was allowed to be transferred to Germany. There, German doctors concluded that he had been poisoned with the nerve gas Novichok.
Most people, including the Kremlin, did not expect Navalny to ever return to Russia. But the Putin critic did not want to campaign in exile. “Russia is my country and I miss it,” said Navalny just before he got on a plane to Moscow after a few months of rehabilitation. He was immediately arrested there. Navalny has since been trapped in a maximum security detention camp outside Moscow.