Thu. Mar 4th, 2021

European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Russia‘s foreign ministry on Monday blasted the move amid the crackdown on Kremlin critic Navalny and his supporters.

EU foreign ministers earlier Monday agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials, diplomats told AFP, after Navalny’s associates urged the ministers to go after oligarchs accused of funding President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

The diplomats did not name the targeted individuals nor give details about them.

European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

The sanctions are the first under the EU’s new system to punish human rights violators, and will reportedly ban the officials from reentering the bloc.

‘We reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for (Navalny’s) arrest and sentencing and persecution,’ EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing the meeting in Brussels. 

Leonid Volkov, a senior associate of Navalny, welcomed the news, saying: ‘Even if it’s too little… it’s the first time personal sanctions are applied with regard to human rights violations, so it opens the way for further negotiation on this with Europe.’ 

In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry called the new sanctions ‘disappointing’ and said they were prepared under a ‘far-fetched pretext’.

‘In obedience to bloc school of thought and anti-Russian stereotypes, Brussels is again instinctively pushing the broken sanctions ‘button,” it said.

Navalny was jailed last month after returning to Moscow from Germany, where he had spent months recovering from a poisoning attack he blames on Putin. 

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it was behind the attack.

The imprisoning of Putin’s best-known opponent sparked nationwide protests that saw thousands of demonstrators detained and triggered calls in the West for Navalny’s release.

A Moscow court on Saturday upheld a ruling to send Navalny to a penal colony for more than two years for violating a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud charges, despite Europe’s rights court demanding Russia release the Kremlin critic and deeming the sentence ‘arbitrary’.

The imprisoning of Putin's best-known opponent sparked nationwide protests that saw thousands of demonstrators detained

The imprisoning of Putin’s best-known opponent sparked nationwide protests that saw thousands of demonstrators detained

‘We consider categorically unacceptable the constant unlawful and absurd demands for the ‘release’ of a citizen of the Russian Federation who was convicted of economic crimes by a Russian court on the territory of our country in accordance with Russian law,’ Russia’s foreign ministry said.

‘In international practice, this is called interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state,’ it added.

The EU earlier sanctioned Russia over the August poisoning of Navalny with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, putting six Russian officials on a blacklist in October.

The bloc has previously slapped Moscow with various sanctions over the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russia’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

It comes as the Biden administration is preparing to issue sanctions on Russia over the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

According to Politico, the US is expected to coordinate with European allies a sanctions rollout against Russia in the coming weeks.   

The Biden administration is preparing to issue sanctions on Russia over the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

The Biden administration is preparing to issue sanctions on Russia over the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Sources told the news outlet that US sanctions on Russia would be the Biden administration’s first major step in holding the country accountable for human rights abuses, which President Joe Biden lists as a priority for his foreign policy agenda. 

No immediate details of the response were revealed, but one source claimed that the US is ‘considering available policy options’. 

‘We won’t stand by idly in the face of these human rights abuses,’ the official said.

Daniel Fried, who served as assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs at the State Department, told Politico: ‘I don’t think we can stop [Russian President] Putin from sending Navalny to a penal colony. But by acting quickly now, at least it’s in Putin’s calculation that the US is willing to act.’

The Biden administration is also not starting from scratch as it relates to sanctioning Russia. The administration received a comprehensive sanctions package from the previous administration.   

Sources told the news site that the package proposed three types of sanctions: Magnitsky Act sanctions on the individuals who detained Navalny; sanctions under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (CBW Act); and sanctions under Executive Order 13382.

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