Politics

Canada sanctions Russian officials over poisoning, imprisonment of Alexey Navalny

Canada is imposing sanctions on nine high-ranking Russian officials in response to what the foreign ministry called gross and systematic human rights abuses — including the attempted assassination and subsequent jailing of popular opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

Sanctioned individuals include senior defence officials, top prosecutor and head of security service

A man holds a placard reading "One for all, all for one" during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny in Omsk, Russia on January 23, 2021. Canada announced sanctions on nine Russian officials today for alleged human rights abuses related to Navalny's poisoning and jailing, and a subsequent crackdown on protests supporting him. (Alexey Malgavko/Reuters)

Canada is imposing sanctions on nine high-ranking Russian officials in response to what the foreign ministry called gross and systematic human rights abuses — including the attempted assassination and subsequent jailing of popular opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

In a statement released today, Global Affairs Canada says the sanctions are meant to highlight the "the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia and the shrinking space for civil society and independent voices there."

The sanctioned individuals include two senior officials from the country's defence ministry and the head of the FSB, Russia's main security agency.

Two senior officials from President Vladimir Putin's office are also on the list, along with the head of Russia's penitentiary system and the country's top prosecutor.

'Gross human rights violations'

"The Russian government has repeatedly shown its unwillingness to respect the basic rights of its own people and address concerns raised on multiple occasions by the international community," Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau said in a press release.

"Canada will continue to increase pressure on the Russian government to unconditionally release Mr. Navalny and his supporters who have been unlawfully detained. Russia's gross human rights violations will not go unanswered."

The sanctions freeze any assets those officials have in Canada. They also ban them from travelling to Canada and forbid Canadian citizens and businesses from providing them with financial services.

The measures follow similar sanctions announced by the United States and European Union three weeks ago.

In a statement, the Russian Embassy in Canada condemned what it called "illegal" and "illegitimate" sanctions and vowed to respond in kind. 

"Attempts to interfere into our internal affairs and impose distorted and politicized views of reality are doomed to failure," the statement said. "Instead of teaching and moralizing others, Ottawa should think of its own worrying human rights record, including systematic violence against Indigenous people and continuing racial discrimination."

Navalny, who is one of Putin's most popular political opponents, was poisoned last summer with the nerve agent Novichok. He was treated in a hospital in Berlin but was subsequently imprisoned and sentenced to two years in prison upon returning to Russia on what are widely seen as politically-motivated charges. 

Navalny and his supporters have accused Putin of ordering the poisoning. The Kremlin has denied the accusation.

Global Affairs also cited the heavy-handed police response to protests against Navalny's arrest as justification for the sanctions. Thousands of protesters were arrested after taking to the streets in cities across Russia following Navalny's arrest in January.

The sanctions come two days after Canada sanctioned four Chinese officials in a similar show of unity with the U.S., the U.K. and the EU.

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