Russia has gone way too far in capturing opposition leader Navalny right after his arrival. The vast majority of countries in the European Union think so. Today the foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels and they are very likely to declare new sanctions against Russia.
The penalties will be imposed on people who have been involved in human rights violations in Russia. These could be police officers who arrested Navalny, judges who sentenced him or people who have recently been involved in the crackdown on protests in Russia. Their bank balances will be frozen and they will no longer receive visas to travel to the EU.
That may sound like a tough approach, but it is not what the now imprisoned Navalny himself wants. He spoke with MEPs at the end of November and called on Brussels to declare sanctions against wealthy Russian oligarchs. If they can no longer dock their luxury yachts in the ports of Monaco and Barcelona, they will put pressure on Putin to change course, Navalny argues.
That course may seem logical, but according to EU diplomats it is still difficult to implement in practice. Thanks to a Dutch initiative, it has recently become possible to impose EU sanctions on the basis of human rights violations. But the people against whom those sanctions are directed must have been directly involved in those violations. And that does not apply to the oligarchs.
If Russians are on the sanction list who had nothing to do with the arrest of Navalny or the crackdown on protests, they can appeal their sentence in the European Court. If such a case is lost, it would be a great disgrace for the EU. And so the EU countries really want to limit the list to people who can be proven to have violated human rights in recent times.
The problem is that EU sanctions will not necessarily hit local judges or police hard. Brussels diplomats say that the threat of European sanctions means that not all judges want to participate in show trials.
That is a gain for the EU, but at the same time threats from the Kremlin will have a much greater impact on their lives for most Russians than threats from Brussels. If the Russian police officers or judges on the sanction list do not travel to the EU anyway, they will never be denied a visa. The question is also whether these groups have European bank balances.
NOS op 3 previously made this video about Navalny:
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