EU to Sanction Four People Over Russian Poisoning of Navalny

The European Union is set to sanction Russians linked to the poisoning of Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic, Alexey Navalny, with the decision likely to be approved this week.

Four individuals will be targed by the measures, according to three people familiar with the matter. The list will include senior law enforcement officials in Moscow and St. Petersburg, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

“We reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for his arrest, sentencing and persecution,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, said after a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers in Brussels. “It will be decided soon. Maybe it will take one week, but I hope not more than that.”

The sanctions list is expected to be finalized and approved by a group of legal experts representing the bloc’s governments. Once that’s done, the member states can formally adopt the measures, which will require unanimous support from all 27 nations.

Fraying Relations

The additional sanctions mark a new low in relations between the EU and Russia following Navalny’s poisoning and a trip by Borrell earlier this month to Moscow, where he was embarrassed by his counterpart Sergei Lavrov who disparaged the bloc. Still, the narrow focus of the punitive measures won’t have a material impact on the Russian economy, thus potentially allowing channels of communication between Europe and the Kremlin to stay open.

Allies of 44-year old Navalny, who was sentenced by a Russian court to 2 years and 8 months in jail, have called on the bloc to sanction senior officials, state bankers and billionaires such as Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. A spokesperson for Abramovich has said there’s no foundation to claims made against him by Navalny and his allies. Usmanov has not responded to requests for comment.

Before the meeting in Brussels, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said he was “in favor of preparing the ordering of sanctions,” adding that it was important to keep communications open between the two sides to help resolve international conflicts. “The relations we currently have between the EU and Russia have clearly reached a low point.”

Separately, the EU said it’s prepared to use sanctions against those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar on Feb. 1. EU foreign ministers also spoke via a virtual call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, where they agree to work together on Iran and its nuclear program. Borrell said that he hoped there would be news within the coming days, following intense “diplomatic contacts.”

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