Navalny team proposes new sanctions to punish Russia

Navalny team proposes new sanctions to punish Russia
Navalny's team proposes new sanctions to punish Russia, including calling on the West to refuse to recognise the results of the presidential elections in March, which are almost certain to be won by Putin. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews February 21, 2024

The opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s team has proposed three new sanctions to punish Russia, following his death in a high security prison in Russia’s Far North on February 16.

His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, is preparing to step into her dead husband’s shoes following a video message she released only three days after he was reported dead. Navalnaya will at least play the role of a prominent voice of Russia’s opposition movement, although her effectiveness as a potential leader remains to be seen.

Navalnaya was at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend and travelled on to Brussels, where she met several top EU diplomats. He has reportedly proposed a set of new sanctions to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom she blames for being personally responsible for the murder of her husband.

Navalny's team outlined a tripartite strategy in a statement released February 20 that includes:

refusing recognition of Russia's forthcoming presidential elections in March 2024;

establishing a dedicated investigative body to probe Putin's covert networks and financial movements; and

devising a support framework for Russian nationals fleeing the regime's oppression.

Navalnaya left Russia after her husband was jailed in January 2021 and has been warned by the authorities that she faces arrest if she returns to Russia.

After she came out in open opposition to the Kremlin in her video address, Russian authorities announced they had brought new charges against Navalny’s brother Oleg who has been placed on the wanted list.

The US and EU have promised new sanctions in response to Navalny’s death, but have also been working on a thirteenth sanctions package that is due to be released on February 24, the second anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine.

Navalny’s death is likely to provoke a harsher response than previously planned as diplomatic sources close to the EU deliberations on the new sanctions previously said they were “modest” in scope.

In a forewarning sign of more extreme measures, aluminium prices jumped on the London Metal Exchange (LME) on February 20 as talk that Russia’s aluminium exports may be included in the new package was revived. The idea of banning Russia’s aluminium exports to Europe has proved to be very controversial as the EU remains heavily dependent on these imports that would be particularly difficult to replace.

The United States, under President Joe Biden's directive, is also set to unveil a new comprehensive sanction package aimed at Russia, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan indicating that the measures will target the defence and other key sectors.

Lyudmila Navalnaya, mother of the deceased dissident, has issued a poignant appeal to President Putin, demanding the return of her son's body, which she is yet to see.

Speaking in a video message from the Polar Wolf prison camp where Navalny died, the mother made a passionate plea to Putin personally to release the body of her son, “so I can give him a decent burial.”

“I am addressing you, Vladimir Putin. The solution to the issue depends only on you. Let me finally see my son. I demand that Alexei’s body be immediately returned to me so that I can bury him humanely,” she said against the backdrop of the colony in the Yamal peninsula where Navalny died.

Under Russian law the authorities have the right to hold the body for 30 days. Russian authorities have informed Navalny's family that the body will be withheld for at least another 14 days pending a "chemical examination.” Some have speculated that they will take this time to ensure any chemical traces of a possible use of a poison can diminish or otherwise doctor the corpse to remove any incriminating evidence of foul play. As bne IntelliNews reported, the evidence that Navalny did not die of natural causes has been mounting in recent days.

Presidential spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has distanced the administration from the affair, saying that the issue of handing over Navalny’s body was “not for us.” He added all questions should be addressed to the penal system and that everything was “proceeding routinely and according to the regulations.”

The EU issued a statement on the same day saying it demanded a “transparent” investigation into Navalny’s death. Peskov rejected EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s request for an international investigation into Navalny’s death, saying that Moscow doesn’t accept “such demands,”  Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported. 

The public reaction inside Russia has been muted and the small protests have quickly died away. The state-controlled press has largely ignored the story, although it has been front page news in the West. Following the announcement of Navalny’s death several hundred people came out in the main cities of Moscow and St Petersburg to lay flowers at memorials, but were quickly disbursed by police, who quickly cleared the flowers away.

Around 100 people were detained by police, according to NGO reports, but most were later released with no charges.

From prison, another leading Russian dissident, Vladimir Kara-Murza who was sentenced to 25 years last year, commented on Alexey Navalny’s death on February 16, saying: “Vladimir Putin is personally responsible.” Kara-Murza was also poisoned twice and is in poor health. His supporters fear for his life too.