Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is photographed at the Charite hospital in Berlin, Germany, where he was taken in August after he was poisoned while on a flight to Moscow. Photo by Alexei Navalny/Instagram/EPA-EFE
Oct. 15 (UPI) -- The European Union has sanctioned several members of the Russian government over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Navalny, a vocal critic and leader of Russia's leading opposition group, is still recovering in Germany after he became ill in August while traveling from Siberia to Moscow. German medical officials said Navalny was poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent Novichok.
The EU issued sanctions against six officials close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia's Federal Security Service, faces frozen assets and a travel ban. Sergei Kiriyenko, Putin's first deputy chief of staff, Kremlin official Andrei Yarin, deputy defense ministers Alexei Krivoruchko and Pavel Popov and Siberia envoy Sergei Menyaylo were also sanctioned.
Calling Navalny's poisoning an "assassination attempt," the European Council announced the sanctions Wednesday.
"The use of chemical weapons constitutes a serious breach of international law," the council said in a statement.
The European Council called on Russian authorities to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to "ensure an impartial international investigation and to bring those responsible to justice."
"In view of the continued threat posed by the proliferation and use of chemical weapons, six persons and one entity should be included in the list of natural and legal persons, entities and bodies subject to restrictive measures," it added.
The Russian government, which has repeatedly denied involvement in Navalny's poisoning, again dismissed responsibility on Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow has already said it would cooperate with investigators and noted that Russian doctors found no poisonous substances in Navalny's system before he was flown to Germany for treatment.