Chancellors of the European Union (EU) opened the door on Monday to the adoption of sanctions against Russian officials for the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny with use of the neurotoxic agent Novichok.
During a meeting in Luxembourg, the European Foreign Ministers reached a preliminary political agreement to apply these sanctions, at the behest of France and Germany, which prompted the measure.
Since last week, Paris and Berlin had publicly increased the pressure, especially Through the disclosure of a joint note in which they criticized the absence of “credible explanations” by Russia about what happened to the opposition leader.
Strong critic of the government of Vladimir Putin, Navalny, 44, fell seriously ill on 20 August while traveling on a plane in Siberia, campaigning on behalf of opponents for local and regional elections.
After being treated for a few days in a Siberian hospital, he was transferred to a specialized center in Berlin and continues his convalescence in the German capital.
The Russian opponent directly accused Putin of being behind his poisoning, an accusation rejected by Moscow, which considers it “unacceptable”.
The EU High Representative for Foreign Relations, the Spanish diplomat Josep Borrell, said on Monday that now the technical work supported by evidence to be provided by France and Germany to prepare the sanctions will begin.
Borrell, however, avoided speculating how many Russian officials would be punished. All and any adoption of sanctions by the EU requires the unanimous support of its 27 member countries.
This Monday, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Mass, welcomed the decision of his counterparts to reach an agreement regarding these sanctions.
“I think it is of the utmost importance, in light of such a serious crime – a violation of international law and the chemical weapons convention – that the EU sends a signal of unity, and this is what happened on the day ”, He celebrated.
Navalny, for his part, had asked European leaders last week to take one more step and prohibit the stay in the territory of “oligarchs and important officials” close to Putin, as well as the freezing of their funds.
“Sanctions against the whole country do not work. The most important thing is to prohibit the stay of those who benefit from the scheme and freeze their funds. The oligarchs and important officials, Putin’s closest circle, ”he said in an interview with the German newspaper image.
The opponent considered that this elite “murders people because they want to remain in power”.
“They divert money, steal billions and on the weekend they go to Berlin or London, buy expensive apartments and sit in cafes,” he said.
The measures related to the so-called “Navalny case” will be considered within the general framework of the EU sanctions for the use of chemical weapons, which the foreign ministers this Monday extended for a period of one year.
This is the same general framework that the EU had already used to sanction four Russian intelligence officials for their participation in the attack – with the same agent Novichok – against the former double spy Sergei Skripal in England in 2018.
Experts of the Chemical Weapons Convention confirmed complaints made by Germany, France and Sweden about the use of the nerve agent Novichok against Navalny.
The eventual adoption of sanctions against senior Russian officials will represent a new chapter in the strained relations between Brussels and Moscow, which has worsened significantly since the crisis in Ukraine in 2014.
That crisis led the EU to adopt sanctions against Russian officials, measures that have since been renewed.
Moscow, meanwhile, was the scene on Friday of a round of negotiations between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, two countries that started a bloody conflict in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
In Luxembourg this Monday, the European foreign ministers also reached an agreement to expand the list adopted two weeks ago with sanctions against Belarusian officials, in order to include the president himself, Alexander Lukashenko.
“According to the progressive approach that was adopted, the EU is ready to take other restrictive measures, especially against high-ranking entities and officials, including Alexander Lukashenko,” the EU foreign ministers pointed out after his.
The sanctions consist of “a travel ban to the EU and the freezing of assets ”against people held responsible for the manipulation of the elections August 9 and the repression of the protests that followed.
Russian opponent Alexei Navalny accused Putin of being behind his poisoning
Alexei Navalny’s sarcastic response to Putin’s suggestion that he had poisoned himself