US Slaps More Sanctions on Russia Over Navalny Poisoning

Published: 17 March 2021

Navalny Jail PhotoAlexei Navalny: “Three things would always amaze me. The starry sky above us, the categorical imperative inside us and the amazing feeling when you run your palm over your freshly shaved head.” (Photo: Navalny, Instagram)

By Zdravko Ljubas

The United States expanded on Wednesday export restrictions on Russia as part of existing sanctions over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny who has recently been transferred to a notorious Russian jail.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security said the move follows sanctions imposed against a number of Russian officials earlier this month. 

As of Thursday, the Department will ban the export of Russia-bound national security items, such as certain software and technology, as well as servicing and replacement parts and equipment. This excludes items that support aviation and commercial space launches.

The Russian government “has used chemical or biological weapons in violation of international law or lethal chemical or biological weapons against its own nationals,” the statement said.

It referred to Novichok, a nerve agent Moscow used in 2018 against former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal in the U.K. Novichok was used again in August last year against Navalny, who barely survived the attack and had to be transported to Germany for medical treatment.

Russian authorities arrested him upon his return in January and sentenced him in February to two years and eight months in jail for violating the terms of his suspended sentence in the so-called Yves Rocher case. He failed to report to police while he was recovering in Berlin.

His trial and his sentence prompted many governments and human rights associations to call on Moscow to release Navalny, saying that the process against him has been politically motivated.

Besides Washington, the European Union too sanctioned a number of Russian officials linked to the Navalny’s case.

Navalny’s whereabouts were unknown for days but on Monday he revealed in a typically cynical Instagram message that he is serving his term in a notorious correctional colony he compared to a concentration camp.

“Greetings to all from the ‘Sector of Enhanced Control A,’” Navalny wrote under a photo of himself, showing his recently shaved head and a look of utter despair. He said he was transferred to correctional colony IK-2 in the city of Pokrov, Vladimir region.

“I have to admit that the Russian prison system managed to surprise me. I had no idea that a real concentration camp could exist today some 100 km (east) of Moscow.”

Following his announcement, Navalny’s supporters released a video on Tuesday, describing IK-2 as a colony with a “frightening reputation” because of the humiliation and severe beatings of inmates, the sadistic behavior of employees, and the absence of medical assistance.

The video shows aerial shots of the facility, but also how guards are forcing a prisoner to lay on broken glass and then beat him with batons. It also brings the testimonies of former prisoners who describe frightening details of the life at IK-2.

Gleb Drobilenko, who spent only two months in that prison, described the poor hygiene and medical protection at IK-2, saying that prisoners who were suffering from tuberculosis or AIDS were not isolated. All prisoners had to shave every morning, for which they were given two minutes.

“We couldn’t even think to ask for a personal razor, but we had to share them,” he said.

According to his post, Navalny’s first impressions were a bit different.

“I haven't seen any violence or even a hint of it yet… to be honest, I do not even remember a place where everyone speaks so politely and somehow friendly,” he wrote calling his new home a “friendly concentration camp.”

In his somewhat lighthearted message, Navalny joked that even cursing is strictly forbidden and that his daily routine is guided by the “literal fulfillment of endless rules.”

While his supporters continue to advocate for his freedom, Navalny says that his humor will help him survive the jail.

“Three things would always amaze me. The starry sky above us, the categorical imperative inside us and the amazing feeling when you run your palm over your freshly shaved head,” he wrote ironically.