Brussels / Washington / Moscow (dpa) – The EU and the US are coordinating sanctions against senior Russian government officials for the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny.
The punitive measures decided by the EU hit Russian Attorney General Igor Krasnow and head of the Central Commission of Inquiry Alexander Bastrykin. They are also directed against the head of the prison, Alexander Kalashnikov, and the commander of the National Guard, Viktor Solotov.
Everyone is accused of being responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia, including arbitrary arrests and detentions. Solotov is also blamed for the brutal repression of protests and demonstrations. The EU sanctions decision stipulates that those affected may no longer enter the EU and that their assets must be frozen in the EU.
Representatives of the US government initially did not disclose the names of those affected by their sanctions on Tuesday. They stressed that the punitive measures were largely in line with those of the Europeans. Follow them to stand in a gallery. But there are also extra steps.
These are the first US sanctions against Russia under the new US President Joe Biden. His predecessor Donald Trump had refrained from taking punitive action against Moscow in the Navalny case. Biden, on the other hand, generally wants to take a different course towards Russia. Government officials stressed that the approach will differ significantly in tone and content from the Trump administration. Wherever this is in the national interest of the US, cooperation with Moscow will be sought, as recently with the renewal of the New Start disarmament treaty. But wherever Russia crosses its borders, this must have consequences. The US government will work closely with partners, especially in Europe. This is also a difference from the previous government.
The Americans said they would respond to other “destabilizing” actions by the Russians. “More to come.”
With regard to the sanctions in the Navalny case, there has been criticism that the property freeze and entry bans only affect Russians, for whom these measures are hardly relevant. Navalny’s senior staffer Leonid Volkov, who lives abroad, recently demanded repeatedly that the billionaires loyal to the Kremlin who funded Putin’s system be blocked from entering the country and blocking their accounts.
In the EU, however, there is not yet the necessary support from all Member States. One reason is that sanctions against individuals and direct responsibility for human rights violations cannot withstand scrutiny by the European Court of Justice.
Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas made it clear last week that the punitive measures must above all be a clear sign that the EU will not just accept certain matters.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced counter-sanctions on Tuesday. At the same time, the Russian government dismissed EU and US sanctions as ineffective on Tuesday. It’s time to consider whether these policies are effective, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Interfax agency. “The answer is obvious: this policy is not achieving its goals.” Russia repeatedly stresses that, after numerous conflicts, it will not be impressed by the punitive measures taken by the EU and the US.
Navalny was sentenced to a camp prison in Moscow in early February. He allegedly violated probation requirements several times in a previous criminal case in 2014 for fraud and misappropriation of funds. The EU finds the verdict inadmissible because Navalny had to be treated in Germany for several months after an attack with nerve poison on him. She suspects that the opposition politician should be put aside politically.
Due to the attack on Navalny on August 20, 2020, the EU had already imposed entry and ownership bans on people suspected of being responsible near President Vladimir Putin last year. In Brussels, it is believed that the state authorities in Russia are behind the attack. Navalny is said to have been moved to the penal colony of Pokrov, about 100 kilometers east of Moscow in the Vladimir region. However, there is no official confirmation yet.
A new sanction tool created last year was first used to impose EU sanctions. The new regulation makes it possible to freeze the assets of actors who commit or benefit from serious human rights violations. In addition, entry bans can be imposed on people.
Human rights violations could so far only be sanctioned in connection with sanctions against states or in the context of special sanctions regimes established by the EU, for example in the fight against cyber attacks and the use of chemical weapons. This has so far made it difficult or impossible for the EU to respond to human rights violations – for example, in the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul.
It is now eagerly awaited whether the new EU sanctions regime will also apply in the Khashoggi case. Initially, there was no information on the subject of the foreign service of Josep Borrell, representative of EU foreign affairs. On Tuesday it was only emphasized that the Navalny case shows how quickly the new instrument can be deployed. Only about a week had passed between the political agreement on the sanctions and their entry into force.