By Tom Kingsbury | Political Editor
The EU has sanctioned six senior Russian officials for the poisoning of Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The sanctions imposed include the freezing of assets and travel bans on those deemed responsible for Navalny’s poisoning with Novichok nerve agent.
Those targeted include the chief of Russia’s internal security service (FSB), as well as two deputy defence ministers.
The EU has said that given Navalny was under surveillance at the time he was poisoned, the only reasonable conclusion is that the FSB was involved.
“It is reasonable to conclude that the poisoning of Alexei Navalny was only possible with the consent of the Presidential Executive Office”.
Sanctions were also imposed on a chemical research center believed to be involved in the production of Novichok, which the UK government says was used in Salisbury in the 2018 attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
What did the UK say about the sanctions?
The government announced the sanctions in a press release, accusing Russia of “reckless and malign behaviour”.
It added that there was “no plausible explanation for Mr Navalny’s poisoning, other than Russian involvement and responsibility.”
It also called on Russia to hold a “full and transparent” investigation into Navalny’s poisoning, and to declare its Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement:
“Together with our international partners, we are sanctioning those responsible for the criminal poisoning of Alexy Navalny. [sic]
“Any use of Chemical Weapons by the Russian state violates international law. We are determined to hold those responsible to account.”
‘Putin’s chef’ sanctioned
Also mentioned in the sanctions was the man known as ‘Putin’s chef’, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a wealthy Russian businessman who made his fortune running catering businesses and now organizes banquets for Putin.
The UK said Prigozhin was responsible for “significant foreign mercenary activity in Libya and multiple breaches of the UN arms embargo.”
He is alleged to be dealing with the Wagner mercenary group, which is supporting Khalifa Haftar’s forces fighting against the UN-recognised government in Libya’s capital Tripoli.
Prigozhin is already under sanctions for the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, as well as US sanctions regarding Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Prigozhin reportedly denied involvement in the Libyan conflict, saying “I have no business interests in Libya”
The Russian government disputes the findings of three separate laboratories that Novichok was used on Alexei Navalny. It denies any involvement in his poisoning.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said of the sanctions:
“We will respond in kind. This is diplomatic practice.”
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