A group of US senators has come up with fresh sanctions they suggest imposing on Moscow over the “poisoning” of opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The bill calls for a “report” on President Vladimir Putin’s personal finances.
Apart from the usual call for “targeted” restrictions against some unspecified “Russian officials complicit in brazen violations of international law,” the newly introduced bill also suggests looking into any wealth that may be held by Russian President Vladimir Putin personally – as well as by “his inner circle” – which the American senators claim was “amassed by corrupt practices,” according to a statement published on the website of Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who co-authored the legislation.
“The legislation will … require the [US presidential] Administration to make public Putin’s wealth and level of corruption,” the Republican said, while accusing Moscow of “stopping at nothing to silence or intimidate Russian citizens” who supposedly expose the Kremlin graft.
The strongly worded statement comes after German authorities claimed that Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and protest leader, was poisoned with ‘Novichok’ – an infamous nerve agent previously believed to have been used in an attack on Russian-born British-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.
Berlin quickly linked the Navalny incident to the Kremlin, arguing that the poisonous substance – to which very few people supposedly have access – was “in the possession” of the Russian authorities. It also said that conclusions reached by its military specialists were confirmed by laboratories in France and Sweden, but it hasn’t made the results public. Germany’s Western allies in London, Paris and Washington immediately rushed to condemn the “poisoning” and demand explanations from Moscow.
Russia said in response that its medics, who were the first to treat Navalny after he suddenly felt unwell onboard a Moscow-bound plane, did not find any signs of him being poisoned. Still, Moscow has repeatedly stated its readiness to cooperate with Berlin on an investigation into the incident and has asked the German side for evidence – something it says German authorities have so far failed to provide.
This has not prevented US officials from squarely blaming Moscow for the incident. “The US cannot stand idly by while Russia attempts to murder its critics abroad,” Senator Ben Cardin, of Maryland, another co-author of the bill, stated – seemingly glossing over the fact that Navalny technically felt unwell while still over Russia’s territory, and not “abroad.”
The senators also could not help taking the opportunity to remind the world about Moscow’s alleged earlier transgressions, such as “meddling” into US elections or “taking malign actions” in countries like Ukraine and Syria – and now apparently Belarus too.
The bill, which also urges Washington to “determine” if Russia violated American laws banning the use of chemical weapons, was also supported by Chris Coons (D-DE), Mitt Romney (R-UT), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). It will now have to pass both the House and the Senate and be signed by President Donald Trump to become law.
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian Senate’s Foreign Affairs Committee, called the legislation “just another anti-Russian sanctions bill,” while maintaining that the “true reasons” for its introduction “are inside America (itself), as it is always the case.”
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