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European Union foreign ministers on Monday gave the green light to sanctions against senior Russian officials in response to the imprisonment of opponent Alexei Navalny.
EU foreign ministers decided on Monday 22 February to adopt new targeted sanctions against those responsible for the treatment of Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny.
A “political agreement” for new targeted sanctions was reached during a meeting of Ministers of the Twenty-Seven, and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, was instructed to propose a list of names of Russian officials to sanction, diplomats said. No oligarch should be affected, they say.
The agreement was reached after a long discussion between the ministers, but no names will be mentioned after the meeting. “These will be targeted, proportionate and legally based sanctions,” said one of the diplomats.
>> To see: “Russia-EU: the Navalny affair poisons diplomatic relations”
The sanctions should target “those responsible for the police and judicial apparatus responsible for the unacceptable treatment of Alexey Navalny,” Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg said upon arriving at the meeting. “It is hardly possible to punish the oligarchs. We can only act against officials, and that only if we have proof,” for his part stressed the head of Luxembourg diplomacy, Jean Asselborn.
According to Reuters, the sanctions will target the head of the Federal Investigation Committee, the director of the Russian prison authority, the commander of the National Guard and the Russian prosecutor general.
Moscow “ready to react”
“If it comes down to sanctioning ten Kremlin officials who don’t like to travel abroad and have no property abroad, then it won’t be painful and it won’t convey the message,” warned Leonid Volkov, a close friend of Alexeï Navalny, who came to Brussels to plead for European sanctions against oligarchs close to the Kremlin. “For us, this will mean that we must continue our fight to convince,” he added.
The Kremlin had issued a warning to Europeans ahead of their meeting. Moscow is “ready to react” in the event of “a new round of restrictive, unilateral, illegitimate measures,” Russian Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, warned in an interview with the German daily Die Welt.
>> To see: “Russia: Putin – Navalny, the confrontation”
Alexei Navalny, 44, was arrested in January on his return from Germany where he had been treated after being poisoned in Russia. Prosecuted for a fraud dating from 2014, he was sentenced to serve a sentence of approximately two and a half years in prison. He was also found guilty of “defaming” a veteran of World War II and fined 850,000 rubles (approximately 9,500 euros).
The EU denounced a “politicization” of Russian justice and demanded the unconditional release of the opponent.
With AFP and Reuters