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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Biden Ramps Up Sanctions On Russia As Tensions Escalate Over Poisonings, Election Meddling

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The U.S. said Wednesday it would tighten punishing sanctions on Russia in response to the poisoning of its citizens, the latest sign of escalation between the two nations as the Biden administration toughens its stance toward the Kremlin.

Key Facts

The Commerce Department said in a statement the move was part of an effort to prevent Russia from accessing sensitive U.S. technology “that might be diverted to its malign chemical weapons activities.”

The U.S. has announced separate sets of sanctions against Russia after officials concluded the Kremlin was responsible for attempts to poison the opposition leader Alexei Navalny last year and the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in 2018.

The tightened sanctions, which take effect Thursday, will block exports to Russia of unnamed products that are controlled for national security reasons.

They exclude certain categories of products related to aviation and flight safety.

Key Background

The Biden administration announced its first sanctions against Russia in early March as it declassified a U.S. intelligence report concluded the FSB, a top intelligence agency in the country, orchestrated the poisoning of Navalny in Siberia in August 2020. In a coordinated response with the European Union this month, the U.S. imposed sanctions on the FSB and seven senior Russian government officials for the nerve agent attack and imprisonment of Navalny in February after he returned from recovery in Germany. The Trump administration also rolled out two rounds of sanctions against Russia and expelled dozens of its diplomats after Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Britain in March 2018. Moscow has denied involvement in both incidents. 

Crucial Quote

“By deploying illegal nerve agents against dissidents, both inside and outside its borders, the Russian government has acted in flagrant violation of its commitments under the Chemical Weapons Convention and has directly put its own citizens and those of other countries at mortal risk,” the Commerce Department said in a statement.

What We Don’t Know

If further measures against Putin or Russia are imminent. On Wednesday, Biden vowed that Russian President Vladimiar Putin would “pay a price” for efforts to interfere with the 2020 presidential election. The comments came after a declassified U.S. intelligence report was released Tuesday, revealing Putin authorized efforts to damage the Biden campaign through covert operations. Biden said the consequences would be announced “shortly,” but did not say what they would be.

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