European Union foreign ministers has made up their mind on Monday to impose sanctions on top Russian officials following the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a decision that was expedient by a tense trip to Moscow by the chief E.U. diplomat previously this month.
Stliusong gathered that the asset freeze and travel ban was intended to send a message to the Kremlin after Navalny was charged to 2½ years in prison this month, E.U. diplomats said. Russian authorities laid an allegation on Navalny of failing to report to parole officers last year after he was almost killed in a nerve agent attack that he says was arranged by Russian leaders. He had a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that he deemed politically motivated.
“Russia is drifting towards an authoritarian state and driving away from Europe,” E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell noted in announcing the sanctions. “It is interested in confrontation and disengagement from the European Union.”
He said the sanctions would focus on officials responsible for Navalny’s apprehension and prosecution. Although the final list is subject to confirmation, E.U. officials plan to aim two prosecutorial officials, the head of Russia’s national guard and the head of Russia’s prison service, diplomats said, speaking on the situation of anonymity to discuss internal planning.
Main while the measures will go into effect in about a week . The sanctions toughened the E.U.’s stance against Russia at a moment when the United States is also pursuing tightened measures against the Kremlin after four years in which President Donald Trump sought friendlier relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Stliusong gathered that the secretary of State Antony Blinken took part in the E.U. discussions via videoconference, the first direct contact between him and the top diplomats of the 27-nation body as a whole. They discussed about Russia, China and reviving the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. The Trump administration took away the United States from the Iran deal in 2018.
“We are looking forward to” reengaging with the United States, Borrell said, after E.U.-U.S. relations during the Trump administration scrabble post-World War II lows.
Borrell’s travelled to Moscow this month, intended as an effort to bring back the dialogue with Russian leaders, badly backfired. He was criticized by other E.U. policymakers after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted Europe for what he said were human rights violations as he stood next to Borrell at a news conference.
In the end, the trip seems to have reversed Borrell’s stance on Russia. Shortly after the visit, he said he wanted new sanctions.
“Borrell now is more hawkish than us,” said one senior European diplomat who is skeptical of Russia.
Borrell on Monday kicked aside criticism of the trip, saying it had “provided good information” about the intentions of Russian leaders.
The sanctions decision “sends a very clear message to people who are part of this regime, and maybe this will contribute to a small crack, to a small split within the regime, when people will start to feel that being close to Putin is not as safe and pretty anymore as it used to be,” Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, told reporters in Brussels on Monday.
But before Monday’s decision, Volkov had called for a wider list of Russian oligarchs to face sanctions to try to weaken elite support for Putin. Borrell said the legal case against officials directly responsible for Navalny’s imprisonment would be more watertight.
The E.U. foreign ministers, who met in person in Brussels, also signed new sanctions against Venezuela and discussed how to support protesters in Hong Kong and respond to the Myanmar military’s imprisonment of the country’s elected leaders.