On Monday, European Union foreign ministers agreed on sanctions targeting Russian officials involved in the crackdown on Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and his supporters, while Moscow responded by expressing its disappointment over the move.
European foreign ministers reached the agreement during a meeting in Brussels, which also saw the announcement of sanctions targeting Venezuelan officials, in addition to other measures that would be imposed on the leaders of the military coup in Myanmar.
Diplomats in Brussels said that a “political agreement” was reached to use the new human rights penal system for the first time in order to punish 4 senior Russian officials involved in Navalny prison and to crack down on his supporters by arresting thousands of them during the recent protests in Russia following the arrest of Navalny. Upon his return from Germany, where he underwent treatment for months after he was poisoned last summer with “Novochik” gas produced in the former Soviet Union.
These diplomats did not reveal the identities of the Russian officials involved in sanctions that include freezing their assets and banning their travel to European Union countries. However, they mentioned Sanctions will not include any of the wealthy and influential close to power in Moscow.
And the European Union’s foreign affairs and security official Josep Borrell will have to formally formulate a list of Russian officials who will be sanctioned in the coming days, according to a senior Russian diplomat.
On the other hand, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed its disappointment at the European Union’s decision to impose sanctions on 4 senior Russian officials.
It said in a statement that this decision was taken “under a flimsy pretext to prepare for the imposition of new unilateral and illegal restrictions against Russian citizens.”
Moscow had earlier threatened to cut ties with the European Union if sanctions were imposed that threaten its economy.
Borrell’s visit to Moscow earlier this month was supposed to help improve European-Russian relations, but Moscow’s expulsion of European diplomats sparked new tensions between the two sides.
Amid these tensions, European leaders called for sanctions against Russia.
During the meeting of European ministers in Brussels, Borrell said there was a feeling within the EU that Russia was heading towards authoritarianism and moving away from Europe.
And last October, the European Union blacklisted six Russian officials for poisoning Navalny with nerve gas.
The European Union previously imposed sanctions on Russia after its annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and because of its role in fueling the conflict in Ukraine.
On the other hand, the Swedish prosecutor said Monday that he has charged a 47-year-old Swedish man suspected of providing information to a Russian diplomat.
The Swedish Security Agency said that the man was arrested while meeting with a person working for Russian intelligence under the guise of being a diplomat, in a Stockholm restaurant in February 2019.