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Prominent Democrat calls out Biden admin for missing deadline to further sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning

By Michael Conte and Nicole Gaouette, CNN

The Biden administration has missed a deadline by more than a month to impose legally required sanctions on Russia for the poisoning of opposition activist Alexey Navalny, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday.

“The administration has yet to impose congressionally mandated sanctions in response to the attempted murder of anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny, as required under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Act,” said Sen. Robert Menendez during a nominations hearing for several State Department and USAID nominees. “These sanctions were due on June the second.”

Menendez pointed out that while these sanctions have been pending since the Trump administration, neither administration has acted on them.

The Biden administration sanctioned a number of Russian officials and entities in March for Navalny’s poisoning in August, including two of President Vladimir Putin’s deputy chiefs of staff, two Russian defense ministers, the Russian prosecutor general, the director of the Federal Penitentiary Service and the head of Russia’s security services, the FSB, as well as the FSB as an entity.

However, the administration has not applied sanctions mandated by Congress under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Act, according to Menendez.

The State Department has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment.

There is bipartisan concern in Congress over the Biden administration not yet imposing these sanctions. Just before President Joe Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in June, Sen. Jim Risch, the GOP Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Michael McCaul, the GOP Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Biden urging him to impose the sanctions.

“The delay of the imposition of these sanctions runs directly counter to your Administration’s stated goal of using the summit with President Putin to defend our democratic values in the face of Putin’s authoritarian rule,” wrote Risch and McCaul.

Biden said in remarks after the summit that he warned Putin of consequences if Navalny were to die in prison.

The US intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russian security services poisoned Navalny with a banned nerve agent called Novichok. Navalny went to Germany for treatment and was arrested upon his return to Russia in January. A CNN and Bellingcat investigation identified FSB specialists who trailed Navalny prior to his poisoning.

Even after the March sanctions, campaigners have been calling for the US to impose further sanctions to hold Moscow accountable for targeting Navalny.

Shortly after Biden met with Putin, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN said the US was preparing more sanctions in response to Navalny’s poisoning but was vague about timing.

“We are preparing another package of sanctions to apply in this case,” Sullivan said about Navalny on “State of the Union,” referring to Navalny. Asked about timing, Sullivan said sanctions would happen “as soon as we develop the packages to ensure that we’re getting the right targets.”

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