EU foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on four high-ranking Russian officials over the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Reuters reported, citing two diplomats.
The agency clarified that no names were discussed during the meeting, but diplomats said they were the head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Alexander Bastrikin, the Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, the directors of the National Guard Gen. Victor Zolotov and the Federal Penitentiary Service Alexander Kalashnikov.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU is expected to impose sanctions on Russian citizens responsible for the detention, prosecution and conviction of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a week.
He clarified that a political agreement was reached today by the EU Foreign Affairs Council. Borrell has been authorized to present a proposal for new European legislation on human rights violations around the world. The proposal is expected to be ready today and approved by written procedure. Hopefully it won’t take more than a week, Borel told a news conference after the meeting.
He said EU foreign ministers were united in assessing that Russia was becoming an authoritarian state, moving away from the EU and seeking confrontation. He noted that the EU’s goal remains co-operation with Moscow on issues of European interest. Borrell added that the EU would seek to counter Russian disinformation and cyberattacks.
Before sanctions are imposed, a complex process is underway to establish a clear link between events and the actions of those accused, Borel explained. We must be able to defend such a decision in court. When there are calls to punish Russian oligarchs, it must be proven that they are directly involved (in the violation of human rights). We can’t punish people just because we don’t like them, he said.
Borrell noted that in the case of Navalny, the sanctions are aimed at affecting those responsible for his prosecution and poisoning. We cannot take actions that will not stand up to the court, this is the rule of law, he added.
Representatives of the Russian opposition have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of sanctions.
“If we are talking about sanctioning ten Kremlin officials who do not like to travel abroad and who do not have assets abroad, this is unlikely to be a big problem for them and will hardly convey the necessary message,” warned Leonid Volkov, a supporter of the Russian oppositionist Alexei Navalny. Volkov arrived in Brussels to call on the European Union to impose sanctions on oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has warned the EU that it is ready to react in the event of new sanctions against Russia, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov told the German daily Welt.
There are still disagreements among European countries over the approach to be taken with the Kremlin, AFP reports.
“We need to look for ways to dialogue with Moscow, we need Russia’s help in a large number of international conflicts,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on his arrival in Brussels.
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