UPDATEGermany is pushing for punitive measures against the Russians who have sent Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to a prison camp for years. The EU has already agreed on some sanctions.
The EU countries today discussed new sanctions for those responsible for the detention of Navalny. All those involved face an entry ban and a blocking of their assets on European territory. Ministers have instructed High Representative Josep Borrell to prepare a list of names.
Names will not be announced today, but diplomats say four people are in the picture. For the decision, the EU would for the first time use the new framework introduced at the end of last year to sanction human rights violations, the so-called European version of the American Magnitsky Act.
Oligarchs out of harm’s way
The EU previously imposed sanctions on six Russians and one organization after the poisoning of Navalny. The opposition leader’s entourage had pushed for sanctions against oligarchs who support President Vladimir Putin, but diplomats said they would remain unaffected. They target “police and judicial officers responsible for the unacceptable treatment of Navalny,” Austrian minister Alexander Schallenberg had said on his arrival. The Luxembourg minister Jean Asselborn explained earlier that it is almost impossible to hit the oligarchs. “We can only act against officials, and only if we have evidence,” he underlined.
Navalny’s supporters are not satisfied with that explanation. “When it comes down to punishing ten Kremlin officials who do not like to travel abroad and who do not have assets abroad, it does not hurt or send a message,” warned Leonid Volkov, a confidant of Navalny. who had traveled to Brussels to plead for sanctions against the powerful businessmen surrounding Putin.
The Kremlin had nevertheless warned Europeans about new sanctions. Moscow is “ready to respond” if “a new cycle of restrictive, unilateral and illegal measures” were to be started, Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizkov, said in the German newspaper Die Welt.
Navalny was convicted on Saturday for insults against a 94-year-old war veteran from World War II. He had sharply criticized a video message on the Internet in which Russians spoke out in favor of the constitutional changes that the Kremlin wanted to make. Navalny had called the people featured in the clip – including the war veteran – “traitors”. The judge in the case fined him 9,500 euros. The fine that Navalny has to pay is more than double the average annual salary in Russia.
In a separate criminal case, Navalny was also given 2.5 years for allegedly violating the conditions for his release after a previous conviction during his stay in Germany. The EU considers that conviction politically motivated and demands, in vain, the unconditional release of Navalny.
The Kremlin critic also had to appear in court on Saturday morning for violating the terms of his release. The recently pronounced prison sentence was upheld on appeal, although the 3.5-year sentence was shortened by one and a half months, which Navalny had already spent under house arrest.
Navalny had failed to report to the Russian authorities while on parole. At that time he was recovering in Germany from a nerve poison poisoning.
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