A Russian activist who called on the Biden administration to sanction 35 individuals for actively participating “in the oppression and corruption of Putin’s regime,” told Fox News the U.S. sanctions announced Tuesday are a “good start” but not the end of their fight.
In the first action against the Russian government under President Biden, the United States sanctioned seven Russian officials and more than a dozen organizations over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing.
Vladimir Ashurkov, Alexei Navalny’s ally for a decade and executive director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation, told Fox News from Moscow that next in line for sanctions should be President Vladimir Putin himself and his cronies.
“We would like to see on the sanctions list more people for whom it will have an impact on their behavior, not the security people who don’t have assets in the West who rarely travel there,” Ashurkov said via Zoom. He added that sanctions should hurt people with significant business interests in the West and in the U.S., who “have access to international financial system, so that their dirty money gets contaminated.”
The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for Russian entities.
“The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences. Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes international norms,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“These actions today demonstrate that there will be accountability for the use of chemical weapons and actions that violate international norms and abuse human rights,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said following the announcement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry warned it would respond to the “punishment,” however minister Sergei Lavrov has not specified how.
Navalny survived poisoning by the nerve agent “Novichok” last summer — a charge the Russian government denies. He was arrested at the Moscow airport on Jan. 17 upon his arrival from Germany, where he underwent intensive treatment for the poisoning, and is now imprisoned for “breaking the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence in an embezzlement case,” the case that the European Court for Human Rights ruled as “arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable.”
In January, Ashurkov sent an open letter to Biden urging the U.S. to sanction 35 individuals divided into three groups: oligarchs aligned with Putin, human rights abusers and those involved in the persecution of Navalny.
Tuesday’s sanctions cover mid-level and senior Russian officials. Even though the list does not include oligarchs, Ashurkov says “it’s a partial victory” and promises to make anti-corruption voices heard.
“Sanctions are a political decision and there’s a lot of levers involved. It takes a greater political will to sanction people who can hire an army of lawyers and lobbyists in Washington, who will try to protect them and try to influence these political decisions. It’s easier for any government to sanction the security people who are probably not going to sue anybody and are not going to spend any resources on protecting themselves,” he added.
When asked if he was frustrated not to find oligarchs in the list, Ashurkov said he had no illusion the fight would be an easy one.
“It’s not an easy road to get some of the most powerful people under the sanctions regime. So if you don’t fall for illusions, you don’t get disillusioned. It just means that we need to work harder,” he said.
The United States has repeatedly characterized the legal offensive against Navalny as politically motivated, with Blinken saying: “We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny.”