If Europe imposes new sanctions against the Kremlin, it will be only mild, although it sees real Russian “pain points” well.
The EU is well aware of how to make Russia hurt for all its crimes / photo by REUTERS
EU-Russia relations are getting cooler due to the persecution of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Just before discussing new EU sanctions against Moscow on Monday, a Russian court upheld a sentence that would put the oppositionist in prison for 2.5 years.
In addition, Navalny was fined for “slander” against a World War II veteran. And last Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights called on Moscow to immediately release the opposition, – reminds Die Welt. Europeans consulted for several days on how to react to Navalny’s case. On Sunday evening, the foreign ministers of several EU countries met in Brussels with Navalny’s ally Leonid Volkov and another Kremlin critic. Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg now expects the EU to approve new sanctions against Moscow. According to him, they must be “legally indisputable.”
Read alsoRussia is in confrontation with the European Union – BorrelThe chairman of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister (CDU), also said: “I expect EU foreign ministers to vote anonymously and support additional sanctions.” The new package will include a blockade of assets and a ban on crossing EU borders. For the first time, the sanctions will be based on a sanctions mechanism against human rights violators, which was approved in December. Foreign ministers today will instruct the European External Action Service (EEAS) to compile a list of people responsible for Navalny’s conviction and the assassination attempt. And from a European point of view, this is a completely safe step.
“But will these sanctions be enough to force Moscow to ‘rethink and improve the situation in the country,'” EU diplomats say? Germany, France, Austria and Cyprus are putting pressure on the brakes, “the newspaper writes.
“Something more than sanctions against individuals is simply impossible,” said an unnamed negotiator in Brussels.
Die Welt writes that the European Union has found itself in “Putin’s trap”. In March, the heads of state and government wanted to discuss a new strategy for Moscow. But it is still completely unclear in which direction it will be directed. What proportion of rigidity and dialogue will be correct? Especially since Europeans need Russia to resolve key conflicts, such as the wars in Syria and Libya.
Read alsoBloomberg: Biden will be able to put pressure on the Kremlin by extending the nuclear deal“Unfortunately, relations with Moscow have reached a new low since recent events. The behavior with Navalny or the expulsion of three EU diplomats are just another reason, among many others, to reconsider the European strategy on Russia,” McAllister said.
Will there be tougher sanctions against Moscow in the future? The two most important EU countries, Germany and France, are unlikely to support this. Economic sanctions have been imposed in the past and are still valid. They are mainly aimed at state-owned banks and oil and gas companies. And these are the most important sectors for the Russian government. Moscow often claims that sanctions have not affected the Russian economy. Or even just revived “import substitution”. But according to energy experts from the Moscow School of Management “Skolkovo” Tatiana Mitrova, the situation is actually the opposite.
Western sanctions have limited the development potential of Russia’s gas and oil industries. Moscow is able to maintain production volumes. But without Western technology and investment, Russia’s energy cannot grow.
The first package of transatlantic sanctions was introduced after the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea in 2014. It was relatively soft. Certain people were banned from crossing the border, and the accounts of Russians and some Russian companies were frozen. This was especially true of those based in the Crimea. For example, that is why, after seven years of annexation, the occupied Ukrainian peninsula is still a roaming zone for Russian mobile operators. For them, Crimea is a different country.
Read alsoGlobe and Mail: Can Navalny overthrow Putin’s regime?Russia’s largest state-owned banks have not opened branches on the peninsula. The targeted sanctions, meanwhile, hit not only the leaders of the militants in Donbas, but also Russian high-ranking officials and politicians who were promoting the annexation of Crimea. After the destruction of flight MH17 over Donbass, sanctions were strengthened in many areas, – explains Finnish economist Iikka Korhonen. There is an embargo on the sale of weapons and the export of dual-use goods that can be used for both civilian and military purposes. The sale of oil technology was also banned by sanctions. In particular, floating drilling rigs cannot be sold to Russia. This slowed Russia’s expansion in the Arctic.
EU sanctions against Russia through Navalny: what is known
- On October 15, 2020, the Council of the European Union imposed sanctions on 6 people and one institution for poisoning Navalny.
- In particular, sanctions were imposed against Andrei Yarin, head of the Russian president’s domestic policy department, Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy head of the Russian presidential administration, Sergei Menyail, Russia’s president’s representative in the Siberian Federal District, Alexander Bortnikov, director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, and Pavel Popov. Oleksiy Kryvoruchko, as well as against the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology.
- Navalny returned to Moscow on January 17 from Germany, where he was treated after poisoning in the summer of 2020. He was immediately detained by police at the border control at the airport.
- On January 18, a court arrested the oppositionist. The court later decided to send Navalny to a penal colony in the so-called Yves Rocher case for 2 years and 5 months.
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