US sanctions Russian security service over Navalny ‘poisoning,’ targets scientists, criminology lab & anti-terrorist division

Following London’s lead, Washington has blacklisted more officials and divisions of the Russian security service FSB over last year’s alleged ‘novichok poisoning’ of opposition figure Alexey Navalny, offering no evidence.

The US Treasury Department announced on Friday it was imposing the sanctions “in response to the state-sponsored poisoning of Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny that took place one year ago today.”

Nine individuals and two entities “involved in Navalny’s poisoning or Russia’s chemical weapons program” were put on the Treasury blacklist.

“Today, on the one year anniversary of Aleksey Navalny’s poisoning by Russian government agents, we stand with our ally, the United Kingdom, to again condemn the Kremlin’s use of a chemical weapon to target one of Russia’s most prominent opposition leaders,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director Andrea Gacki, announcing the sanctions. “Navalny’s poisoning was a shocking violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons and was part of an ongoing campaign to silence voices of dissent in Russia.”

As with most US sanctions, no evidence was offered to back up any of the allegations. Friday’s sanctions are a continuation of a series of measures against the FSB, going back to December 2016. 

The two institutions placed on the blacklist are the FSB Criminalistics Institute and the State Institute for Experimental Military Medicine (GNII VM), which is under the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Originally a specialized crime laboratory, the Criminalistics Institute was sanctioned on grounds that “it has been reported that a majority of the individuals implicated in the attack against Navalny worked within or collaborated with members of this FSB unit.” Meanwhile, the GNII VM was sanctioned for “operating in the defense and related materiel sector of the Russian Federation,” allegedly working with entities the US accused of working to develop Russia’s chemical weapons capabilities.

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Alleged ‘poisoning’ of opposition figure Navalny was ‘provocation’ aimed at discrediting Russia in eyes of world, Moscow claims

Some of the officials were sanctioned not for what they may have allegedly done, but “for being an official of the Government of the Russian Federation.”

Navalny became ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow, and was treated at the hospital in Omsk after the plane he was on made an emergency landing. Two days later, he was flown to Germany for treatment at Berlin’s Charité clinic. It was at that point that he claimed to have been targeted by “novichok,” a supposedly highly lethal nerve agent.

He was arrested upon returning to Russia for violating the terms of his suspended sentence – handed down in 2014 over an embezzlement conviction – and sent to prison.

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(L) Vladimir Putin. © Sputnik; (R) Alexei Navalny. © Reuters / Maxim Shemetov
Russian opposition figure Navalny was sent to prison for breaking law & NOT for his political activities, Putin insists

Addressing the plea by German Chancellor Angela Merkel – visiting Moscow on Friday – to release Navalny as a political prisoner, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the activist was convicted for a criminal offense against a foreign company, not political activity.

“As far as political activity is concerned, no one should use the guise of political activity to carry out business projects, especially not in accordance with the law,” Putin added.

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