You will look in vain for beaming faces and a warm welcome on Thursday when Josep Borrell arrives in Moscow. After the judgment against Alexei Navalny, the EU foreign affairs representative called for his “immediate release”. The top critic of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was sentenced to more than two years in prison on Tuesday. But what do EU chief diplomat Borrell and the EU countries offer besides words of disapproval for the blocking of Nawalny?
After the poison attack on the 44-year-old last year, the EU imposed entry and property bans on six allegedly responsible persons. Among them are the deputy head of the presidential administration, Sergei Kiriyenko, and the head of the FSB’s domestic intelligence service, Alexander Bortnikov. In Brussels, it is assumed that government agencies in Russia are behind the attack. Navalny sees a “killer squad” from the FSB under Putin’s orders as the mastermind. Russia denies all allegations.
When the recovered Navalny returned to Russia in January, he was immediately arrested. “Some countries had proposed to wait and see whether a real prison sentence would really be imposed,” said Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, describing the mood within the EU governments – which he found incomprehensible: “In my opinion, it was not a good decision because Russia made no signs that it intends to release Navalny. “
After the verdict against Russia’s leading opposition activists, Landsbergis is now assuming a broad consensus within the European Union on new sanctions against Russia: “I believe that since a real prison sentence has already been imposed, the sanctions should be practically automatic and without major resistance from European ministers come into effect.” A proposal was ventilated from those around Navalny to impose sanctions on Putin’s inner circle of power. Navalny suggested in November that oligarchs should be targeted – instead of colonels and generals, not traveling abroad much.
If there are reservations about sanctions, Lithuania could impose national measures independently of the EU, Landsbergis announced. President Gitanas Nauseda also called on the EU and the international community to act. The verdict against Navalny is an offense against human rights and democratic values. “The Stalinist, no-man, no-problem approach is still in use in Russia,” he wrote on Twitter. The governments of the other two Baltic countries, Estonia and Latvia, as well as Poland, traditionally critical of Putin, might also be on board with bilateral sanctions.
Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the EU has taken several measures in the areas of energy and defense, as well as against almost 180 people and almost 50 organizations whose assets are frozen in the Union and are subject to entry bans.
But opponents of further sanctions also spoke up on Wednesday. The economy should not be misused as an instrument, said the former President of the Chamber of Commerce, Christoph Leitl, now co-chair of the Austro-Russian Sochi Dialogue. Even the chairman of the German-Russian Forum, former SPD leader Matthias Platzeck, does not want to “tighten the sanction screw any further”. Platzeck is certainly not in favor of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline being dropped. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has always spoken out in favor of completing the project.
Nord Stream debate 2
From the point of view of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the pipeline, which OMV is also involved in financing, is a problem for “Europe’s energy security”. There is a “frank discussion” between Paris and Berlin, said Le Drian. The European Parliament demanded a construction freeze after Nawalny was arrested. Poland and the USA have been against Nord Stream 2 for a long time – the latter also to sell liquid gas in Europe.
Russia is trying to downplay the Navalny case. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saw no “significant influence,” according to NGOs, 11,000 people were arrested during the latest wave of protests. Peskov also defended the authorities’ crackdown on protesters. (what / dpa / reu)