Britain has published details of sanctions against seven individuals it said were Russian intelligence operatives suspected of involvement in the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
- Alexei Navalny fell ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20 last year
- After recovering in Germany, he was arrested upon his return to Russia
- Mr Navalny undertook a hunger strike during his imprisonment to demand “better medical care”
Navalny was flown to Germany for medical treatment after being poisoned in Siberia on August 20 last year with what Western experts concluded was a military nerve agent.
Moscow has rejected their findings and accused the West of a smear campaign against it.
Navalny was jailed for parole violations on what he says were politically motivated charges when he flew back to Russia earlier this year.
An updated version of the British sanctions list published on the government website on the first anniversary of Navalny’s poisoning included seven new names and the justification for the asset freeze.
The document listed Alexey Alexandrov, Vladimir Panyaev, Ivan Osipov, Vladimir Bogdanov, Kirill Vasilyev, Stanislav Makshakov and Alexei Sedov.
“Alexandrov was an operative of the Criminalistics Unit present in Tomsk where Navalny was poisoned,” the entry on the sanctions list said.
Tactical voting campaign
It comes after news on Thursday that Navalny told Russians to take part in a tactical voting campaign at next month’s parliamentary elections, to try to dent the ruling United Russia party’s political dominance.
The campaign, which asks people to vote for specific candidates judged to have the best chance of defeating the United Russia candidate in any given area, is one of the last levers Navalny and his allies have after a crackdown this summer outlawed his movement as “extremist”.
His own allies are banned from taking part, and United Russia, which supports President Vladimir Putin, is expected to win the September 17-19 election despite a prolonged slump in its own popularity.
Navalny hopes to reduce United Russia’s margin of victory and to cause it potential embarrassment.
Since being jailed in February for 2.5 years for parole violations on a conviction he calls trumped up, Navalny has tried to stay in touch with his followers through social media posts passed to his lawyers who visit him in prison.
He declared his smart voting tactic a success at local Moscow elections in 2019 after 20 candidates backed by his tactical voting plan won seats in the city legislature.
“For the first time in the last 30 years we have a functioning and tested mechanism to defeat the ruling party at elections in constituencies,” he said on Thursday.
United Russia secured a super majority in the last parliamentary elections in 2016, but its rating stood at 27 per cent earlier this month, its lowest in 13 years, according to a state pollster.
Kremlin sources have laughed off the idea that the smart voting plan poses a threat to United Russia, but have said that discontent across the world’s largest country over stagnant or falling living standards could hurt it at the ballot box.