US to announce new sanctions against Russia over Navalny death

US to announce new sanctions against Russia over Navalny death

MOSCOW, (AFP/APP/DNA): The United States will announce fresh sanctions on Russia on Friday over the death in prison of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as a string of European governments summon Russian diplomats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main political opponent died in his penal colony on Friday, Russian authorities said. His team says the 47-year-old was murdered.

The US is set to announce a “major sanctions package to hold Russia accountable” and respond to the “vicious and brutal war that has now raged on for two years”, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Tuesday.

The US and its allies imposed a slew of sanctions on Russia since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The latest move comes as Belgium announced Tuesday that it had summoned its Russian ambassador, following Poland, France and Germany.

Meanwhile, Italy’s deputy prime minister and former Putin admirer Matteo Salvini was criticised for saying it was “up to Russian doctors and judges” to determine the cause of Navalny’s death.

– Return the body –

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, urged Putin to “immediately” release the body of her son — a demand echoed by his widow Yulia Navalnaya.

Lyudmila Navalnaya travelled to the remote IK-3 penal colony on Saturday, the morning after his death was announced, and has since been barred from seeing his body.

“Let me finally see my son. I demand that Alexei’s body be released immediately so that I can bury him in a humane way,” she said, dressed all in black, in a video published by his team.

Investigators said his body could be kept for “at least two weeks”, Navalny’s allies reported.

Navalny’s team also published a written letter to Putin by Lyudmila Navalnaya — who is not a public figure — making the demand.

The Kremlin has refused to say when the body will be handed over and Putin has been silent on the death of his main political opponent.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday brushed off Yulia Navalnaya’s statement that Putin killed her husband as “unfounded and vulgar”.

“I do not give a damn how the press secretary of a murderer comments on my words,” Navalnaya shot back on social media.

– Temporary X suspension –

Russia detained hundreds of mourners in the days after Navalny’s death.

Yulia Navalnaya’s freshly created account on the social media site X, formerly Twitter, was suspended for 50 minutes on Tuesday, shortly after her remarks against the Kremlin.

The company then reactivated it without an explanation.

On Monday, she had posted an emotional video appeal on the platform accusing Putin of killing Navalny.

She announced she would continue her husband’s fight against the Kremlin and met European Union foreign ministers. 

Her team said on Tuesday she had urged the 27-nation bloc not to recognise Russia’s forthcoming presidential election — which is likely to see Putin extend his rule until at least 2030. 

“Do not recognise this election,” Navalnaya said, according to comments published by her team on social media. 

“A president who killed his main political opponent cannot be legitimate by definition,” she added. She also urged the EU to “always make the distinction between Putin and Russia.”