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The Biden administration warned the Russian government "that there will be consequences" if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.

The big picture: Sullivan also defended President Biden for not mentioning Navalny in a Thursday speech about Russia or in a Tuesday call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying the White House aims to deal with the issue "privately and through diplomatic channels."

  • Biden denounced Navalny's arrest as "totally, totally unfair" and "totally inappropriate" on Saturday, according to a pool report.

Where it stands: Navalny — Putin's fiercest and most organized domestic political critic, who previously attempted a run for president in 2018 — faces possible kidney failure as he continues his multi-week hunger strike.

  • Prison authorities said they offered Navalny treatment, but he refused, arguing he should be seen by a doctor of his choice. That request was denied.
  • "People usually avoid the word 'dying'. But now Alexey is dying. In his condition, it is a matter of days," tweeted the opposition leader's press secretary Kira Yarmysh on Saturday.

What he's saying: Sullivan did not specify what actions the U.S. would take against the Kremlin over Navalny's potential death, saying: "We are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose ... but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies."

  • When asked why Biden didn't mention Navalny in his speech or a recent call with Putin, Sullivan said: "We have judged, rather than just make general statements publicly, the best way to deal with this issue is privately and through diplomatic channels direct to the upper-most levels of the Russian government."
  • He also noted that the Biden administration joined the European Union in imposing sanctions "for what the Russian government has done to Navalny, for the use of a chemical weapon against him, which in contravention of international law."
  • "We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community."

Go deeper

Updated Apr 18, 2021 - World

Alexei Navalny's death "a matter of days," spokesperson says

Alexei Navalny. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny faces possible kidney failure as he continues his multi-week hunger strike, a medical trade union told Reuters on Saturday.

What they're saying: "His condition is indeed critical ... His potassium is high and he has other high readings which indicate that his kidneys may soon fail. This would lead to severe pathology and cardiac arrest may occur," Alexandra Zakharova, a representative for the Doctors Alliance trade union, told Reuters.

Apr 17, 2021 - World

Ukraine, Russia to expel diplomats amid heightened tensions

A Ukrainian flag outside the Ukrainian Consulate General building in St. Petersburg, Russia. Photo: Alexander Demianchuk\TASS via Getty Images

Russia on Saturday said it would expel a Ukrainian diplomat it accused of trying to obtain classified information, prompting Ukraine to say it would do the same to a Russian diplomat, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: The tit-for-tat expulsions come amid heightened tensions between the two countries over Russia's build-up of military personnel and equipment on Ukraine's eastern border where Ukrainian soldiers are fighting Kremlin-back separatist troops.

Updated Apr 18, 2021 - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.