US President Joe Biden is planning a package of sanctions to target Russia after the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny and a cyber attack which targeted Government agencies.
In a move expected to be coordinated with European leaders, President Biden will be taking Russia to task over its human rights record just weeks into his presidency.
A senior administration official told Politico: “We are considering available policy options.
“Suffice it to say, we won’t stand by idly in the face of these human rights abuses.”
Alexei Navalny, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and flown to Germany for treatment. He recovered and returned to his homeland, supported by thousands of people, but was promptly arrested and thrown in jail.
Last month, Mr Biden challenged Vladimir Putin over the poisoning of Mr Navalny and reports of Russian bounties on the heads of US soldiers in Afghanistan in their first presidential phone call.
Mr Biden also raised concerns about Russian “aggression” against Ukraine, and reaffirmed Washington’s “strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
On Monday, the EU decided it would implement sanctions on Russia.
Josep Borrell, the head of the EU’s foreign affairs service, said that “political agreement” on the need for sanctions was reached among the bloc’s 27 foreign affairs ministers at a meeting in Brussels.
They will use the “EU Magnitsky Act”, which allows sanctions to be imposed for human rights abuses, for the first time, he said.
The sanctions will also be designed to target the perpetrators of the SolarWinds computer hack which attacked private companies and Federal Government agencies in the US.
In a speech to the Munich security conference last week, President Biden said that “addressing Russian recklessness and hacking into computer networks in the United States and across Europe and the world has become critical to protecting our collective security.”
Over the weekend, National Security advisor Jake Sullivan told CBS that the United States would respond in “weeks, not months.”
He said the response will include a mix of tools seen and unseen, and it will not simply consist of sanctions.
“We will ensure that Russia understands where the United States draws the line on this kind of activity,” Mr Sullivan said.
On Tuesday, Amnesty International removed Mr Navalny’s “prisoner of conscience” status, arguing that his past statements about migrants from Central Asia and the North Caucasus constitute hate speech.
They are still understood to be demanding his release because he is being detained for political reasons.