Brussels (AP) – Following the arrest and conviction of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the European Parliament has called for further sanctions against Russia. Chancellor Angela Merkel has again pushed for the immediate release of the Kremlin critic.
“We believe that would be absolutely correct and that it is also very urgent,” Merkel said in Berlin. MEPs called on the people and bodies responsible for the poisoning, arrest and conviction to punish Nawalny. Russian oligarchs and their families should also be punished. “The European Union should no longer be a place of welcoming Russian wealth of unclear origin,” the document said.
The Kremlin had previously banned such calls as meddling in its internal affairs. Finnish President Sauli Niinistö spoke about Navalny’s imprisonment in a conversation with Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin, he said in Moscow.
In Tuesday’s plenary debate, EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell pointed out that sanctions are the responsibility of the Council of member states. If they wanted to, they would respond with restrictive measures. Borrell had stressed that the EU’s relationship with Russia could not be reduced to the poisoning of Navalny. You have to keep communication channels open.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Interior Ministry is vigorously warning against participating in mass protests and threatening consequences. Everything will be done to prevent the unauthorized demonstrations, the Interior Ministry said. In Moscow, Navalny’s close colleague Lyubov Sobol was arrested again, as opposition staff announced. Navalny and his team on Saturday called for protests across the country against the arbitrariness of the judiciary and the corruption led by Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin.
Demonstrations are planned in more than 60 cities, Nawalny’s team said in short messaging Twitter. The calls for protests spread like wildfire on social networks, including millions on Tiktok. Moscow authorities warned against inciting young people to protest. There was also a video circulating on the Internet showing scenes in which students overlaid Putin’s portraits with the image of Navalny that were widespread in the country.
Several representatives of the EU states had described further sanctions as realistic means. Last year, as a result of Navalny’s poisoning with the war agent Novichok, the EU had already imposed an entry and property ban on those suspected of being responsible near Russian President Vladimir Putin in August.
Navalny returned to Russia over the weekend after medical treatment in Germany and was immediately arrested. In emergency proceedings, he was sentenced to 30 days in prison for violation of probation.