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Germany seeks more EU sanctions against Russia over Navalny’s death

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Germany will propose new sanctions against Moscow over the death of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting to be attended by his widow.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia attend a meeting to uphold his bid for presidential candidate, in Moscow, Russia, December 24, 2017.File picture: Reuters, Maxim Shemetov

By Gabriela Baczynska

BRUSSELS – Germany will propose new sanctions against Moscow over the death of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said on Monday ahead of an EU foreign ministers’ meeting to be attended by his widow.

The ministers were already due to discuss the bloc’s 13th package of sanctions against Russia since Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Hungary is the only EU state yet to approve the proposed restrictions against nearly 200 firms and people. There was no comment from Budapest following Navalny’s death last Friday.

The EU’s top diplomat suggested that Russian prison officials he said were linked to Navalny’s death could be blacklisted. There was no immediate word of any more hard-hitting measures that could target Russia’s broader economy.

Yulia Navalnaya said separately on Monday that she would continue her late husband’s fight for a free Russia, and called on supporters to battle President Vladimir Putin with greater fury than ever.

Baerbock said she hoped the 27-nation EU would agree soon on new sanctions against Russia. EU officials say they could be tentatively approved on Wednesday if Budapest gives its green light.

“We have seen the brutal force with which the Russian president represses his own citizens who take to the streets to demonstrate for freedom or write about it in newspapers,” she said. “We will propose new sanctions in light of the death of Alexei Navalny.”

Navalny died in an Arctic prison a week before the two-year mark of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

TARGETED SANCTIONS

“(EU) member states will propose sanctions for sure against those responsible,” said the chairman of Monday’s ministerial talks, foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “The great responsible (person) is Putin himself.”

“We can go down the institutional structure of the penitentiary system in Russia,” he said indicating whom the bloc would add to its list of people subjected to asset freezes and travel bans. “But don’t forget who is really responsible for Navalny’s death.”

Navalny, a 47-year-old former lawyer, rose to prominence campaigning against corruption in Putin’s Russia. He was known for his fiery rhetoric at public protests and in court rooms, vocal presence on social media, and his team’s elaborate video investigations into state graft.

He collapsed after a walk at the “Polar Wolf” penal colony, Russian authorities said, where he was serving a three-decade sentence following years of persecution that included poisoning with a nerve agent in Siberia in 2020.

Hungary has yet to back new sanctions against Moscow that had been proposed before Navalny’s death.

They would freeze the assets of nearly 200 companies and individuals – including some outside Russia – deemed involved in the war, or in bypassing already existing trade restrictions.

Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban says he is “proud” about his Russia contacts, has stalled previous rounds of sanctions, as well as EU agreements on financial assistance to Kyiv. Such moves require unanimous backing of all EU states.

Ministers are also due to discuss military support for Ukraine at a time the United States is struggling to agree on more aid to Kyiv, and as Russia has claimed its biggest battlefield victory in months.

“If Ukraine falls … we will be next. Putin has no intention to stop, he wouldn’t be able to stop,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.

Many in Europe also feel increasingly worried about the possible return to power of former US President Donald Trump, who has been dismissive of Nato.

– REUTERS

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