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Are America's Latest Sanctions on Russia Based on a List by a Blogger?

"Waiting for sanctions." An anti-West meme that has been making the rounds on RuNet. Anonymous image found online.

“Waiting for sanctions.” A jingoistic meme that has been making the rounds on RuNet. Anonymous image found online.

After the first set of rather toothless US sanctions [Global Voices report] against several Russian public officials failed to elicit much of a response, on March 20, 2014 Obama announced new sanctions that would affect 20 more Russians. Although many of these individuals are members of the Russian government, some out of them are oligarchs with unofficial ties to the Kremlin.

The new list appears to closely follow one recently proposed by online activist Alexey Navalny, a major figure in Russia's opposition movement. Yesterday Navalny published a post [ru] on his LiveJournal blog (currently blocked [Global Voices report] by order of Russia's Attorney General's office), in which he asked his readers to vote on who they would like to see on a hypothetical sanctions list. Among these were what Navalny called “”businessmen” who are part of Putin's most intimate circle” — the Rotenberg brothers, Yuri Kovalchuk, and Gennady Timchenko. Navalny has previously targeted these men in his anti-corruption efforts.

Putin, Navalny, Obama post sanctions? Artistic reenactment.

Putin, Navalny, Obama post sanctions? Artistic reenactment.

Remarkably, the new list of sanctioned individuals includes these men, as well as many of the other candidates proposed by Navalny. This led some bloggers to joke:

looks like it isn't the CIA that's in charge of Navalny, but Navalny that's in charge of the CIA, the whole sanctions list is straight from his piece

Mentioning CIA and Navalny in the same tweet might strike a little close to home these days — recently NTV and pro-Kremlin bloggers have claimed [ru] that Navalny confessed to working for the CIA in a bugged lunch-time conversation. Navalny himself says [ru] that his talk of CIA connections is nothing more than a joke, a bit of sarcasm he often repeats in good fun.

Nevertheless, even Navalny likely thinks that his joke might have been ill advised, especially in light of the new international developments. It does appear that he and his NGO have been involved in lobbying for sanctions against specific individuals. For example, Navalny repeated the takeaway points of his blog in a New York Times editorial on how to punish Putin. Earlier, an anti-opposition news portal published [ru] a link to an Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party document [pdf] on proposed EU sanctions, which was “drawn up in cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Foundation of Alexey Navalny.”

Maybe it was this that led Navalny to dourly tweet, probably referring to himself:

Oh, and so that people don't harbor any illusions. Some people will pay for this happiness over sanctions against thieves. Should make yourself a prison go-bag

Former Kommersant director Demian Kudriavtsev agrees:

The probability that Alexey Navalny will go to jail has just risen several times:(

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