WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. on Thursday imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on four Russian intelligence operatives accused of direct involvement in the 2020 poisoning of Alexei Navalny, a Russian politician and corruption investigator who is one of President Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control sanctioned Alexei Alexandrov, Konstantin Kudryavtsev, Ivan Osipov and Vladimir Panyaev. All are operatives of the Federal Security Services, known as the FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB. Panyaev is reported to have tailed Navalny prior to his poisoning; the others are operatives of the FSB’s Criminalistics Institute, a secret laboratory which is reported to work with poisons.
Navalny fell ill on a flight back to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk in August 2020 and was taken to a hospital after the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk. He was transferred to Berlin, where he spent weeks hospitalized in a coma and recovered. The U.S. government is among those that believe the FSB officers used the nerve agent Novichok to poison Navalny.
He was subsequently imprisoned when he returned to Russia in January 2021, and this month a Russian court sentenced Navalny to an additional 19 years in prison.
Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said the U.S. condemns “the latest injustice against Navalny” and renews its call for his immediate release.
Brian E. Nelson, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the attempt to kill Navalny “represents the Kremlin’s contempt for human rights, and we will continue to use the authorities at our disposal to hold the Kremlin’s willing would-be executioners to account.”
Treasury had already sanctioned the four men two years ago. The sanctions announced Thursday were under the Magnitsky Act “for having acted as agents of or on behalf of a person in a matter relating to extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by officials of the Government of the Russian Federation.”
The sanctions block any property they may own in the U.S. and bar them from doing business with U.S. citizens and companies. Separately, the State Department banned them and their immediate family members from entering the U.S.
Navalny is the most prominent member of Russia’s opposition. He campaigned to challenge Putin in the 2018 presidential election, but was barred from running. Like other opposition politicians in Russia, he had been frequently detained by law enforcement and harassed by pro-Kremlin groups. In 2017, Navalny was attacked by several men who threw antiseptic in his face, damaging an eye.