On 20 August 2020, Aleksey Navalny, Russian anti-corruption activist and critic of President Vladimir Putin, became violently ill on a domestic flight in Russia. While he recovered in a German hospital, toxicology tests conducted in Germany, France, and Sweden and by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons indicated that Navalny had been poisoned with a form of the Novichok nerve agent. Upon his recovery in January 2021, he returned to Russia where he was promptly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to 2 years and 8 months, ostensibly for violating parole stemming from a 2014 politically motivated conviction.
On March 2, the United States Department of State issued a statement that Secretary Antony Blinken “determined that the Government of the Russian Federation has used a chemical weapon against its own nationals, in violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.” In response, the United States, in parallel with the European Union, is imposing sanctions on Russia.
“The United States joins the European Union in condemning and responding to the Russian Federation’s use of a chemical weapon in the attempted assassination of Russian opposition figure Aleksey Navalny in August 2020 and his subsequent imprisonment in January 2021,” said Secretary Blinken in a written statement. “We share the EU’s concerns regarding Russia’s deepening authoritarianism and welcome the EU’s determination to impose sanctions on Russia under its new global human rights authorities.”
The Department of State is expanding existing sanctions first imposed on Russia after its 2018 Novichok attack against Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom. As well, the Department of Treasury and the State Department are sanctioning numerous Russian individuals and entities associated with the Russian Federation’s chemical weapons program and defense and intelligence sectors. Russia will also be added to the list of countries that are denied exports of defense articles and defense services.
“The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences. Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes international norms,” said Secretary Blinken.
“The United States has consistently characterized the legal offensive against Mr. Navalny as politically motivated, an assessment shared by our G7 partners and the European Court of Human Rights. We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny.”