Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The EU plans to impose sanctions on Russia over Navalny’s imprisonment


EU foreign ministers are expected to approve new sanctions against Russia today over the imprisonment of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and repression against his allies.

Leading diplomats from the 27 EU member states gathered in Brussels are likely to impose restrictions on Russian officials and organizations, including through asset freezes and visa bans, as part of a recently launched sanctions instrument to punish human rights violators.

New sanctions against Russia will follow weeks of internal debate in the EU. In October, the European Union blacklisted six Russian officials over Navalny’s poisoning.

On February 21, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, said that Russia continued to ignore the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, which demanded that the Russian government release Navalny.

EU member states, led by Poland and the Baltic states, are calling for tougher policies towards Russia, including additional economic sanctions. On the eve of the meeting in Brussels, Navalny’s two closest allies met in the Belgian capital with eight EU foreign ministers and several EU ambassadors. One of Navalny’s associates, Leonid Volkov, told AFP that they “talked about targeted personal sanctions against Putin’s closest allies and people guilty of serious human rights violations.” The meeting was organized by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.

Another group of EU members, including France and Germany, are in favor of a more targeted approach and the exclusion of economic sanctions. The imposition of sanctions usually requires the unanimity of all members of the bloc.

On the eve of the meeting in Brussels, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said in an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the EU should impose new sanctions against Russia in connection with the Navalny case.

The Austrian diplomat said he expected “broad support” for targeted sanctions among the 27 EU members, but added that the sanctions “should be politically literate and legally perfect.”

The decision to impose new measures against Russia will essentially lead foreign ministers to instruct the EU diplomatic service to draw up a list of sanctions against those guilty of convicting Navalny and possibly also of attempting to assassinate him.

The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada have already imposed a series of sanctions against Russia over the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.



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