Person of the Week: Aleksei Navalny. EU announces sanctions as Western security agencies conclude FSB responsible for his poisoning

Aleksei Navalny. Source: Facebook

Aleksei Navalny

The Guardian, Thursday, 15 October 2020: The EU has announced sanctions against members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, including the head of Russia’s domestic spy agency, over the poisoning of the opposition figure Alexei Navalny. The EU said it had agreed sanctions against six people believed to have been involved in the “assassination attempt” against Putin’s most vocal critic. The assets of Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor intelligence agency to the Soviet KGB, will be frozen, and he will face a travel ban, along with Sergei Kiriyenko, the first deputy chief of staff in Putin’s administration. Andrei Yarin, another Kremlin official, Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov, both deputy ministers of defence, and Sergei Menyaylo, a presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District, will also be targeted. Navalny is still recovering in Germany after falling ill on a flight to Moscow from Siberia in August. The plane was forced to make an emergency landing and he was briefly treated in a hospital in the Siberian city of Omsk, before being evacuated to Germany after a standoff between his family and Russian doctors.

The Guardian, Friday, 16 October 2020: Western security agencies have privately concluded that the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned by the country’s FSB domestic spy agency, in effect pointing the finger at the Kremlin for ordering the attack. The stark conclusion has been shared between London, Berlin and Paris, among others, and underpins the decision this week by the UK and the EU to target the FSB chief, Alexander Bortnikov, with sanctions. European leaders have been quick to accuse the Russian state of being responsible for Navalny’s poisoning in August, but remain reluctant to explicitly blame the agency they believe is responsible or President Vladimir Putin himself. Western security sources, however, are confident about accusing the FSB in private, although the assertion is hard to test. On Thursday, the European commission dropped the strongest hint yet, explaining the reasoning for the sanctioning of Bortnikov in an official release. It said Navalny was being “closely monitored by the Federal Security Service [FSB] of the Russian Federation during his journey to Siberia in August 2020”.

Meduza, Wednesday, 14 October 2020: Catering magnate Evgeny Prigozhin says he’s filing new defamation lawsuits against the opposition figures Alexey Navalny and Lyubov Sobol.  According to documents shared on social media by Prigozhin’s company, “Concord,” he is suing Navalny for a tweet where the oppositionist called him a “crook” who earned his fortune by “supplying rotten meat to kindergartens and schools.” Prigozhin is also suing Sobol for saying in an interview with the website that he is “an asshole from the 90s drunk on power” who “gets billions from the Moscow budget for poisoning children in kindergartens, leaving them hospitalized with bloody diarrhea.” Prigozhin also named as a co-defendant in the lawsuit. Prigozhin is demanding 5 million rubles ($64,500) in emotional damages from Navalny and Sobol. 

See also: The Moscow Times, Wednesday, 14 October 2020: The EU on Wednesday agreed to impose sanctions on six people and one entity over the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny with a Novichok nerve agent, diplomats told AFP. Ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved sanctions after France and Germany proposed measures last week, saying Russia was responsible for the poisoning. In line with usual EU practice, those targeted by the sanctions — travel bans and asset freezes — will not be named until the measures take legal effect on Thursday, but they are likely to be Russian officials. Paris and Berlin said last week they wanted to target individuals “based on their official function” and an entity “involved in the Novichok program.”

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