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23 Feb, 2024 03:53

Biden threatens Putin with ‘major sanctions’ over Navalny’s death

The US president claims the Russian leader was personally responsible for the opposition activist’s demise
Biden threatens Putin with ‘major sanctions’ over Navalny’s death

The US will unveil a new batch of sanctions against Russia in response to the death of jailed opposition activist and anti-corruption campaigner Alexey Navalny, President Joe Biden has said. He added that the restrictions will target Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

According to Russian prison officials, the 47-year-old suddenly fell ill on February 16 and was pronounced dead the same day. Although the exact cause of death remains unclear, his family, associates and multiple Western leaders are blaming the Kremlin. 

Biden met with Navalny’s widow Yulia and daughter Dasha in San Francisco on Thursday, praising the late activist’s “extraordinary courage and his legacy of fighting against corruption and for a free and democratic Russia,” according to the White House.

The president “affirmed that his Administration will announce major new sanctions against Russia,” the statement read.

“We are going to announce sanctions against Putin, who is responsible for his death, tomorrow,” the president told reporters after the meeting. “We are not letting up.” 

CNN cited a Treasury official as saying that the restrictions, expected to be formally announced on Friday, will apply to more than 500 targets. An unnamed State Department official described the upcoming sanctions to ABC News as “crushing,” while another source told the channel that they will target Russia’s defense sector.

Moscow has not commented on the planned additional penalties. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously said that it is “completely unacceptable” for foreign leaders to accuse Russia while investigation into Navalny’s death is ongoing. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has similarly blasted the West for making “pre-prepared assumptions.”

Navalny became famous in the 2010s by posting investigations to his blog and YouTube channel, in which he accused high-ranking Russian officials and businessmen of corruption. He unsuccessfully ran for mayor of Moscow in 2013 and helped organize several anti-government protests.

He accused the Kremlin of trying to poison him with a nerve agent in 2020. The Russian authorities have denied the allegations.

Navalny was put behind bars in 2021 for violating the terms of his suspended sentence for fraud. Two years later, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for “extremist activities.” He denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the charges against him were politically motivated.