Seven Russian nationals have been sanctioned by the British government following the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
The Kremlin’s foremost domestic critic fell ill on a flight to Moscow last year and was subsequently found to have been poisoned with what experts concluded was the nerve agent Novichok.
Mr Navalny was arrested on January 17 after returning from Germany, where he spent months recovering from the attack. The 45-year-old is currently in prison in Russia on charges of embezzlement.
The Foreign Office on Friday announced that seven individuals, said to be members of the Russian Federal Security Service, would be subject to travel bans and asset freezes. Government officials believe those sanctioned were “directly responsible” for planning or carrying out the attack on Mr Navalny on August 20 last year.
Announcing the sanctions, foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “Since the horrific poisoning of Alexei Navalny took place a year ago, the UK has been at the forefront of the international response against this appalling act.
“Through our chemical weapons sanctions regime and at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, we are sending a clear message that any use of chemical weapons by the Russian state violates international law, and a transparent criminal investigation must be held. We urge Russia to declare its full stock of Novichok nerve agents.”
Mr Navalny, a consistent thorn in the side of president Vladimir Putin, blames the Kremlin for targeting him with Novichok – the same nerve agent used in the Salisbury poisonings in 2018, for which the Russian intelligence services have also been blamed.
The anti-corruption investigator has millions of Russian followers on social media and frequently attends protests against Mr Putin’s government, though he has been unable to challenge the President at the ballot box.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Navalny marked the anniversary of the Novichok attack by urging global leaders to devote more attention to combating corruption and to target tycoons close to Mr Putin.
The UK and United States also issued a joint statement in which they reaffirmed their condemnation of the “assassination attempt” on Mr Navalny.
The statement added: “We welcome sanctions actions made by international partners and will continue to co-ordinate with international partners on further measures.
“Today the UK and the US join in taking further action against the individuals directly responsible for carrying out the poisoning of Mr Navalny.
“As we did after Russia’s use of a chemical weapon against the Skripals in the United Kingdom in March 2018, we continue to underline that there must be accountability and no impunity for those that use chemical weapons.”