EU Foreign Minister has agreed on new sanctions against Russia after the imprisonment of regime critic Alexei Navalny, say sources in EU diplomacy.
The decision was made when the foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday, the sources say.
Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had announced that he would propose new sanctions after his recent visit to Russia. Ministers were expected to support this, although there are differing views on EU sanctions. Poland and the Baltic countries have been among the driving forces.
With agreement at the ministerial meeting, the EU can take on the job of choosing instruments and finding out who will be covered by the sanctions. It could mean the closure of accounts and travel bans for people involved in the imprisonment of Navalny.
Attempted to kill with nerve agent
The regime critic and opposition politician was imprisoned immediately after returning to Russia in January. He had then spent several months in Germany, where he received treatment after being poisoned last summer.
Several Western experts have determined that he was exposed to the Russian neurotoxin novitsjok. Russian authorities deny allegations that they had anything to do with the assassination attempt.
The EU has repeatedly demanded the release of Navalny.
It is expected that the EU will use its new sanction tool for human rights violations – often referred to as the EU’s Magnitsky Act after another Russian corruption hunter, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison in 2009.
Russia has threatened retaliation if the EU imposes new sanctions.
The country has already been sanctioned in connection with the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine.
Several of the ministers met with representatives of Navalny on Sunday.
– We need information about the real situation for those who oppose the regime. It is best to talk to them directly, and therefore Lithuania has taken the initiative to meet with the opposition representatives in Brussels, said the Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis before the meeting with the corruption hunter’s supporters.
Leonid Volkov, who heads Navalny’s regional network and currently lives in Lithuania, attended along with another close supporter, Ivan Zhdanov.
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