Canada sanctions nine Russian officials, Kremlin vows response

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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny attendsa court hearing

OTTAWA/MOSCOW (Reuters) - Canada's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it is imposing new sanctions on nine Russian officials over "gross and systematic violations of human rights in Russia," prompting the Kremlin to vow a response against Canada.

Global Affairs Canada said the sanctions were part of a diplomatic effort to pressure senior Russian officials over "the attempted murder" and detention of prominent critic Alexey Navalny, and the treatment of citizen protesters.

"Canada will continue to increase pressure on the Russian government to unconditionally release Mr. Navalny and his supporters who have been unlawfully detained," said Marc Garneau, minister of foreign affairs, in a statement.

"Russia's gross human rights violations will not go unanswered," he said.

Navalny was arrested earlier this year when he returned to Russia from Germany where he had been recovering after being poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent.

Thousands of people were subsequently detained at a series of street protests. Navalny's allies on Tuesday announced plans for an even bigger anti-Kremlin protest this spring, in a revived push to win his freedom.

Canada said its sanctions were in line with actions previously taken by the European Union and the United States.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Moscow would respond to Canada's decision to impose what it described as illegal sanctions on Russia, the RIA news agency reported.

(Reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; additional writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams and Steve Orlofsky)