Moscow (dpa) – Following protests across Russia for the release of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, there are calls for further EU sanctions against Russia.
The punitive measures should hit oligarchs and friends of Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, opposition members living abroad around former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky said. “Hunt them, follow their money flows,” said former world chess champion Garry Kasparov at the online press conference. The EU should use the sanction tool it adopted in December to combat human rights violations.
The European Union’s foreign representative, Josep Borrell, announced that he would discuss the next steps with the EU countries’ foreign ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday. FDP leader Christin Lindner called for a moratorium on the further construction of the controversial German-Russian Baltic Sea pipeline Nord Stream 2.
During historic protests on Saturday, tens of thousands of Russians demonstrated in about 100 cities for the release of Navalny and against President Vladimir Putin. Civil rights activists counted more than 2,600 arrests across the country on Saturday night.
Navalny was sentenced to 30 days in prison in controversial urgent proceedings on Monday. The 44-year-old is said to have violated reporting requirements in previous criminal proceedings while recovering from a poison attack in Germany in August. Several laboratories, including one from the Bundeswehr, had confirmed poisoning with the neurotoxin Novitschok. The EU has therefore already imposed sanctions on Russia.
Manuel Sarrazin, Eastern European political spokesman for the Greens in the Bundestag, was impressed by the hustle and bustle on the streets of Russia: “They show a broad solidarity with Alexej Navalny who is anchored in the Russian population,” said Sarrazin. “Hopefully they act as life insurance for Navalny under the Putin regime.” FDP foreign politician Alexander Graf Lambsdorff criticized the fact that Julia, Nawalny’s wife, was temporarily arrested and “practically detained”. In doing so, the government is violating international and Russian law.
Following the Navalny team’s recent revelation video of a massive palace allegedly built by Vladimir Putin with bribes, protesters’ anger was also directed against the president. The Kremlin had dismissed the allegations in the film, which was viewed over 70 million times, as nonsense. “Putin is a thief,” people sang in many places – demanding not only the release of Navalny, but the dismissal of the Kremlin chief. Political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya noted that the protests made Navalny a hero in the country.
The opposition politician’s staff have announced that they intend to continue the protests over the next week. Due to the corona pandemic, no rallies have been approved in Russia for months. Anyone who does participate should expect heavy fines. The protests on Saturday were an “important first step,” the Nawalny team said. Now it takes a second and a third step. “It’s hard to say when we’ll win.”