Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UK imposes sanctions on six officials at prison where Russia’s Navalny died

Senior prison officials at the Arctic penal colony where the Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny died will be banned from the UK and have their assets frozen, under sanctions announced by Foreign Secretary David Cameron.

The UK foreign secretary imposed sanctions on six individuals in response to Navalny’s death, which has been widely blamed on the Kremlin.

The head of the penal colony, Vadim Konstantinovich Kalinin is among those hit by the new restrictions.

The Foreign Office said the six had been targeted for “activity that violates the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the right to life”.

Announcing the sanctions, Cameron stated: “It’s clear that the Russian authorities saw Navalny as a threat and they tried repeatedly to silence him. FSB operatives poisoned him with novichok in 2020, they imprisoned him for peaceful political activities, and they sent him to an Arctic penal colony.”

“No one should doubt the oppressive nature of the Russian system. That’s why we’re today sanctioning the most senior prison officials responsible for his custody in the penal colony where he spent his final months.”

“Those responsible for Navalny’s brutal treatment should be under no illusion – we will hold them accountable,” he added.

Rishi Sunak also confirmed the sanctions as he appeared in the House of Commons for prime minister’s questions.

“He died for a cause to which he dedicated his whole life: freedom,” Sunak told parliament.

“And to return home knowing that [Vladimir] Putin had already tried to have him killed was one of the most courageous acts of our time.”

“Together with our allies we are considering all options to hold Russia and Putin to account and this morning we sanctioned those running the prison where Alexei Navalny’s body still lies,” he continued.

In response, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, stated Navalny had “died to expose the corruption of the Putin regime”, adding that it was a reminder that Putin has “stolen not just the wealth but the future and democracy of the Russian people”.

Navalny died unexpectedly on Friday in a Russian prison, where he was serving a lengthy sentence stemming from several criminal convictions.

According to the Russian authorities, Navalny suddenly “felt ill” and collapsed on Friday. Efforts to resuscitate the 47-year-old apparently failed and he was pronounced dead the same day. The exact cause of death remains unclear, although a source for RT Russian suggested that it was a blood clot. An investigation has since been launched.

Navalny was put behind bars in 2021 for violating the terms of his suspended sentence for fraud. Two years later, he was sentenced to 19 years in prison for “extremist activities”.

The activist denied any wrongdoing and insisted that all cases against him were politically motivated. Navalny also alleged that the prison conditions were tantamount to “torture”.

Multiple Western leaders, including US President Joe Biden, have stated that President Putin and the Russian government are ultimately “responsible” for Navalny’s death.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted the West for “cynically” rushing to blame the Russian authorities instead of waiting until forensic reports are made public.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stressed that it was “completely unacceptable” for Western politicians to make “outrageous statements” regarding Navalny when the investigation into his death is still ongoing.

The EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell has also said Russia must allow an international investigation into the death of Navalny. But Kremlin announced Moscow doesn’t accept such demands at all.

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