EU to sanction four Russians over Navalny
The European Union will extend sanctions against Russian officials over the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and the repression of demonstrations in his support. The foreign ministers of the bloc’s member states agreed today. The names of four people, including the Russian Attorney General, will be added to the sanctions list. On the contrary, the sanctions will not affect Russian oligarchs close to the Kremlin, whose punishment Navalny himself proposed as an adequate pressure on President Vladimir Putin.
The sanctions follow the recent trip of the head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell, who tried in vain in Moscow to demand Navalny’s release. The most famous critic of the Kremlin is to spend 2.5 years in a penal colony for violating the rules of a previous suspended sentence for embezzlement. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov voted harshly against Borrell and the EU, and Moscow expelled three EU diplomats at the time of the visit.
“I am sorry that Russia continues to move away from us with its steps. That is why I supported the extension of sanctions today,” Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček told reporters in Brussels after today’s meeting. Unlike the January ministerial meeting, the ministers voted unanimously in favor of preparing sanctions, while last time, they were against large countries such as Germany and France.
“I am in favor of preparing new sanctions, of adding specific people,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who also stressed that the union must continue its dialogue with Russia. Politicians did not talk about specific names today. Still, according to diplomats, sanctions could affect the aforementioned prosecutor and the chief investigator or the head of Russian prisons.
Wealthy allies were not punished by the Kremlin’s head, which was called for by the European Parliament together with Navalny. The move was not supported by ministers, among other things, because some feared possible litigation by the oligarchs over sanctions.
Borrell’s office will now examine whether those on the proposed list will be punished by a ban on traveling to the EU and the freezing of assets in the Union. The new sanctions could be definitively approved by the March EU summit, at which presidents and prime ministers will address deteriorating relations with Moscow.
On October, 27 EU countries punished six Russian officials for poisoning last year’s poisoning by Navalny. After an attempted poisoning, the opposition was recovering in Germany, which he blames on the Kremlin and the Russian secret services, and was arrested in January this year shortly after arriving in Moscow. The Russian authorities refuse to have anything to do with the poisoning, but they do not want to cooperate with the EU in its investigation.