National security advisor says Russia will face ‘consequences’ if Putin critic Alexei Navalny dies

alexei navalny
Alexei Navalny appears in a video published by his team on January 18, 2021.

  • The US has threatened Russia with sanctions and other consequences if Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in state prison.
  • Last month, Navalny said he was going on a hunger strike in jail until he could see a doctor.
  • Navalny is recovering after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in Russia.
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Russia will face heavy consequences like sanctions if Alexei Navalny, a top critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, dies in jail, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Sunday.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“In terms of the specific measures that we would take, we are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose and I’m not going to telegraph that publicly at this point,” he added. “But we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies.”

Navalny is serving a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence for missing parole hearings while recovering in Germany after being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent in Russia.

Last month, Navalny said he was going on a hunger strike in jail until he’d be allowed to see a doctor.

“The right to invite a specialist for examination and consultation exists for every convict. Even for me, despite the fact that I’m not guilty,” he said on Twitter. “That’s why I am urging that a doctor be allowed to see me, and until that happens, I am going on a hunger strike.”

In a more detailed Instagram post, Navalny said he has been experiencing pain in his back, and has lost sensitivity in parts of his right leg and most of his left leg.

Doctors have been sounding the alarm, urgently requesting to see him. They warned prison officials that if Navalny does not receive proper medical care and treatment right away, he could die any minute.

At least four doctors have so far requested to see him. Navalny’s personal physician, Anastasia Vasilyeva, wrote to prison officials that his potassium levels were dangerously high, Insider’s SinĂ©ad Baker reported, which might lead to devastating heart issues.

“Our patient can die any minute,” cardiologist Yaroslav Ashikhmin said, adding that “fatal arrhythmia can develop any minute.”

Russian officials have said prison authorities offered Navalny medical care but he declined it because he wanted to see a doctor of his choice.

President Joe Biden this weekend denounced the conditions Navalny is subjected to in the Russian prison, saying it’s “totally inappropriate.”

“It’s totally, totally unfair,” Biden said.

Navalny allies are planning mass street protests this Wednesday, Reuters reported. The protests, which Russian authorities have cracked down on in the past, will come the same day Putin is slated to give an annual state-of-the-nation speech, Reuters said.

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US slaps Russia with new sanctions and expels 10 diplomats in retaliation for 2020 election interference and SolarWinds hack

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington

  • The Biden administration issued new sanctions against Russia on Thursday.
  • The sanctions target over 30 Russian entities and expel 10 Russian diplomats from the US.
  • The sanctions also accuse Russia’s foreign intelligence service of being behind the SolarWinds hack.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Biden administration on Thursday slapped Russia with a new round of sanctions in retaliation for its efforts to meddle in the 2020 US election and its role in the SolarWinds cyberattack.

The sanctions targeted 16 Russian entities and 16 individuals who sought to interfere in the election “at the direction of the leadership of the Russian Government,” and the US also announced that it would expel 10 Russian diplomats.

“The Biden administration has been clear that the United States desires a relationship with Russia that is stable and predictable,” the White House said. “We do not think that we need to continue on a negative trajectory. However, we have also been clear – publicly and privately – that we will defend our national interests and impose costs for Russian Government actions that seek to harm us.”

The Biden administration formally accused the SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service, of being responsible for the devastating SolarWinds attack, which targeted Orion, a type of network management software developed by SolarWinds and distributed to thousands of clients.

SolarWinds said last year that a nation state was responsible for the hack and estimated that 18,000 Orion customers downloaded a malicious software update containing a backdoor that gave hackers access to their computer systems. At least three state governments and multiple federal agencies were hacked, including the Pentagon, intelligence agencies, the State Department, Commerce Department, Treasury Department, and the agency that manages the US’s nuclear stockpile.

“The SVR’s compromise of the SolarWinds software supply chain gave it the ability to spy on or potentially disrupt more than 16,000 computer systems worldwide,” the White House said. “The scope of this compromise is a national security and public safety concern.”

Thursday’s sanctions came after President Joe Biden spoke with Russian leader Vladimir Putin earlier in the week.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the sanctions would “serve to reduce Russian resources available to carry out similar malign activities.”

“These actions are intended to hold Russia to account for its reckless actions,” he said in the statement. “We will act firmly in response to Russian actions that cause harm to us or our allies and partners.”

The US also officially designated Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian national with close ties to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, as a “known Russian agent.”

In a press release announcing the sanctions, the Treasury Department described Kilimnik as a “Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and known Russian Intelligence Services agent implementing influence operations on their behalf.”

It continued: “Additionally, Kilimnik sought to promote the narrative that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” a false talking point started and frequently amplified by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself.

The press release also pointed to Kilimnik’s work for Viktor Yanukovych, the former pro-Russian Ukrainian president and strongman who has close ties to Manafort. “At Yanukovych’s direction, Kilimnik sought to institute a plan that would return Yanukovych to power in Ukraine,” the Treasury said.

The FBI is offering up to $250,000 in exchange for information leading to Kilimnik’s arrest, the press release said.

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Trump’s last blunder. Small pizzeria in Italy sanctioned instead of a Venezuelan oil exporter.

trump pizzeria sanctions
The Trump administration mistakenly put two Italian companies, including a pizzeria, on a sanctions list.

  • On Trump’s last day in office, he ordered that sanctions be imposed on those in the Venezuelan oil industry.
  • In a case of mistaken identity, two Italian business owners had their companies blacklisted.
  • The owners of a Verona pizzeria and a Sardinia graphic design studio have been removed from the sanctions list.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Trump administration accidentally slapped sanctions on an Italian restaurant and a graphic design studio before the former president left office, The Guardian reported.

On former President Donald Trump’s last day of office, he ordered that sanctions be imposed on a network of Venezuelan oil firms and individuals associated with the state oil company – Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA).

This was part of a long-term economic embargo on Venezuela, intended to put an end to President Nicolas Maduro’s regime.

However, an unfortunate mistake meant that two Italian business owners, who shared the same name as a man involved in the Venezuelan oil trade, had their businesses targeted in the crackdown.

Read more: It’s clear the US does not care about China’s face anymore

Alessandro Bazzoni, the owner of a pizzeria in the Italian city of Verona, discovered that his business was placed on a US trade blacklist after visiting his local bank, The Guardian reported.

“When I heard that my current accounts had been blocked, I thought it was a joke,” Bazzoni told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “These are already difficult times for us restaurant owners, the last thing I needed was to have my accounts blocked.”

Bazzoni told the newspaper that he has not received an apology. He said, however, that he is grateful for his name being removed from the sanctions list. “I thank the new American government for the efficiency with which it intervened,” Bazzoni told Corriere della Sera.

Another Italian man, who is also called Alessandro Bazzoni, had his business targeted too. The US Department of the Treasury blacklisted his company, SeriGraphicLab, according to The Guardian.

The Sardinian business owner, who declined to offer comment, confirmed with the paper that his graphic design studio had been on a sanctions list.

The incidents were a case of mistaken identity. The US government was trying to target another Italian citizen who had been a “core facilitator” of a network designed to help PDVSA, The Washington Post reported.

On March 31, the Treasury updated the “specially designated nationalist list” and removed those who were affected by the mix-up.

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The US has extradited a suspected North Korean intelligence operative to stand trial on money laundering charges, as tensions rise between Washington and Pyongyang

Kim Jong Un News Conference North Korea March 25 2021
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking on TV on Thursday.

  • A North Korean national has been extradited to the US to stand trial on money laundering charges.
  • Mun Chol Myong was an “intelligence operative” based in Singapore, according to the indictment.
  • Tensions have risen between Washington and Pyongyang, as Biden looks for a path forward.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US has for the first time extradited a North Korean national to face a criminal trial in America, according to the Justice Department.

An indictment unsealed this week alleged that Mun Chol Myong, 55, defrauded banks and laundered money in an attempt to skirt US and UN sanctions on North Korea.

“He is the first North Korean intelligence operative – and the second ever foreign intelligence operative – to have been extradited to the United States for violation of our laws,” said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for the DOJ National Security Division, in a statement.

Demers continued: “We will continue to use the long reach of our laws to protect the American people from sanctions evasion and other national security threats.”

Mun this week made his initial appearance in federal court in Washington, DOJ officials said. He was detained by local authorities in Malaysia in May 2019. His case has been ongoing in local courts since then.

Biden
President Joe Biden.

The news came as tensions between the two countries flared. On Wednesday, North Korea’s military tested two ballistic missiles, according to multiple reports. A US official told NBC News that the test “threatens the peace and security of the region and our nation.”

Earlier in the week, President Joe Biden’s administration said it would soon finish its in-depth review of Washington-Pyongyang policy, including the relationship fostered by the previous administration.

Senior administration officials said last week that they’d spoken with former officials “to get their sense of how their diplomacy with North Korea worked out over the last four years.”

President Donald Trump notably went to the DMZ to meet Kim Jong Un, the reclusive North Korean leader, in 2018. The two talked privately, and reportedly later sent each other “love letters.”

Officials in Biden’s administration have reportedly been trying to contact North Korean officials since mid-February, but haven’t received a response.

“All I can tell you is that we are on our forward foot, in terms of wanting to clearly signal that we are prepared for continuing engagement in Northeast Asia with key partners and indeed with North Korea,” a senior Biden administration official said this week.

North Korea Embassy Malaysia
North Korean diplomats leaving Malaysia last week.

In response to the US extradition of one of its nationals, North Korea pulled embassy workers from Malaysia, according to multiple reports. The South China Morning Post reported that the “hermit kingdom was outraged” over the extradition.

The newly unsealed indictment, which was signed by a grand jury in May 2018, accused Mun and other unnamed suspects of laundering money through the US financial system. While based in Singapore, Mun worked for Sinsar Trading Pte. Ltd., which used front companies to launder more than $1.5 million, the indictment said.

The DOJ said Mun and others created shell companies to hide their ties to North Korea, giving them access to US correspondent banks and international wire services, breaking sanctions.

“The indictment further alleges that Mun was affiliated with the DPRK’s primary intelligence organization, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, which is the subject of US and UN sanctions,” the DOJ said.

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Biden administration sanctions Chinese officials for ‘genocide’ against Uighurs days after diplomatic spat in Alaska

US China
Secretary of State Antony Blinken was involved in a heated exchange with Chinese officials in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 18.

  • The US on Monday announced new sanctions against two Chinese officials for “genocide” in Xinjiang.
  • Human rights groups say China has forced over a million Uighurs and other minorities into camps.
  • The new sanctions came days after Blinken confronted China’s top diplomat about human rights abuses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Treasury Department on Monday unveiled new sanctions against two Chinese officials in response to “serious human rights abuse” against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

The sanctions, which target Wang Junzheng, secretary of the Party Committee of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and Chen Mingguo, director of the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau, were rolled out in coordination with Canada and European allies.

“Amid growing international condemnation, the [People’s Republic of China] continues to commit genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Blinken said that the US reiterates its call for the Chinese government to “bring an end to the repression” of Uighurs, calling on China to release “all those arbitrarily held in internment camps and detention facilities.”

“These actions demonstrate our ongoing commitment to working multilaterally to advance respect for human rights and shining a light on those in the [Chinese] government and [Chinese Communist Party] responsible for these atrocities,” Blinken added.

The Chinese government has forced more than a million Uighur Muslims and other minorities into detention camps in the Xinjiang region, according to human rights groups. China has vehemently denied allegations it’s committing genocide in Xinjiang.

The announcement of new sanctions against Chinese officials came just days after Blinken was involved in a testy exchange with China’s top diplomat in Anchorage, Alaska, as US and Chinese officials held the first face-to-face talks under President Joe Biden.

In his opening remarks at the meeting, Blinken said the US intended to use the talks to discuss its concerns regarding human rights abuses in Xinjiang, among other issues.

Yang Jiechi, China’s top diplomat, responded by accusing the US of condescending to China. In comments that lasted roughly 15 minutes, Yang said the US government was in no position to lecture other countries on human rights abuses, alluding to racism in the US as he referenced the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blinken then hit back with an impassioned defense of the US, underscoring its willingness to confront its shortcomings “openly, publicly, transparently, not trying to ignore them, not trying to pretend they don’t exist, not trying to sweep them under a rug.”

Biden told reporters he was “proud” of Blinken’s handling of the heated back-and-forth with the Chinese diplomats.

The dynamic between the US and China became increasingly contentious under the Trump administration, particularly as then-President Donald Trump blamed the COVID-19 pandemic on the Chinese government. Top experts have warned that the US and China are entering a new Cold War that could have devastating consequences for the global economy.

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