EU foreign ministers on Monday decided to adopt new targeted sanctions against those responsible for the treatment of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, several diplomats told AFP.
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A “political agreement” for new targeted sanctions was reached during a meeting of the 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, said diplomats. 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.
The sanctions should target “those responsible for the police and judiciary responsible for the unacceptable treatment of Alexei Navalny,” Austrian foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg said on arrival at the meeting.
“It is hardly possible to sanction 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.
“If it is a question of sanctioning ten Kremlin officials who do not like to travel abroad and have no property abroad, then it will not be painful and it will not 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 have to 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”, warned Russian Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, in an interview with the German daily Die Welt.
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 ordered to serve a sentence of approximately two and a half years in prison. He was also found guilty of “libel” against a veteran of the Second World War 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.