Romney again pressures Trump to sanction Russia over poisoning of opposition leader

(Navalny's Instagram via AP) This photo from Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny's Instagram account shows Navalny and his wife Yulia posing for a photo in a hospital in Berlin, Germany, where he is recovering from being poisoned.

Sen. Mitt Romney is again joining a bipartisan group of senators to pressure the Trump administration to punish Russia for poisoning Alexei Navalny, an opposition leader to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“The U.S. cannot remain quiet as Russia attempts to silence opponents around the world,” Romney wrote along with five other senators last week to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

That comes a week after the United Kingdom and the European Union sanctioned six top Russian officials, including the chief of Russia’s internal security service and Putin’s deputy chief of staff, over Navalny’s poisoning.

“The Putin regime has already shown a willingness to murder its critics in other countries using radioactive materials and chemical weapons,” the senators’ letter said. “Our efforts to assist those who seek only that their country abide by its own laws and international commitments serve as a powerful signal to all brutal regimes.”

Joining Romney in the letter were Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; and Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Romney last month introduced with others legislation that called for such things as identifying Russian officials involved in the poisoning, blocking any financial assets they may have under U.S. control and revoking any visas they have and banning them from entry here.

The latest letter calls for the Trump administration to use existing tools they have to punish Putin and Russia.

“The United States must lead the international community and act decisively to deter future attacks both within Russia and beyond its borders on Mr. Navalny and other regime critics,” the senators wrote last week.

Navalny collapsed on a flight to Siberia in August after being exposed to the military-grade chemical agent novichok. He was later flown to a Berlin hospital for treatment and remains in recovery.

German officials have said that laboratory tests in three countries have determined that novichok was used. It was the same weapon used to poison former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in a 2018 attack in England.

President Donald Trump has refused to condemn Russia over the poisoning of Navalny, saying he has not seen proof about it.

“So, I don’t know exactly what happened. I think it’s tragic, it’s terrible, it shouldn’t happen. We haven’t had any proof yet but I will take a look,” Trump said earlier this month. “It is interesting that everybody’s always mentioning Russia — and I don’t mind you mentioning Russia — but I think probably China at this point is a nation that you should be talking about much more so.”

The senators’ latest letter also notes several other critics of Putin have been murdered or poisoned.

“Russian democracy advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza was poisoned in 2015 and 2017,” the letter said. “Former [Federal Security Service] officer Alexander Litvinenko died from radiation poisoning in London in 2006. In 2004, journalist Anna Politkovskaya was sickened on a flight; she survived only to be shot two years later. Navalny too suspects that he was previously poisoned while in prison in 2019.”