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News24.com | EU mulls possible sanctions, response to Russia’s crackdown on Alexei Navalny and protesters

  • January 26, 2021
  • EU
    foreign ministers debated possible responses to Russia’s arrest of Alexei Navalny
    and crackdown on protesters.
  • The
    diplomats met to discuss a wide range of issues, but the possibility of
    sanctions against Russia took centre stage.
  • Brussels
    is expected to hold off on further sanctions until Navalny goes to court in
    early February, to see the outcome.


Brussels
– EU foreign ministers met on Monday to debate their response to Russia’s
arrest of Alexei Navalny and crackdown on demonstrators, as pressure grows to
impose sanctions on the Kremlin.

The
diplomats from the 27 nations are meeting in Brussels for a busy day of talks
ranging from Europe’s relations with new US President Joe Biden, to efforts to
salvage the Iran nuclear deal.

But
the arrest of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent critic Navalny,
and detention of thousands of protesters, will be one of the thorniest issues.

“I
think the EU needs to send a very clear and decisive message that this is not
acceptable,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said as he
arrived for the meeting.

European
diplomats told AFP that ministers do not expect to agree on sanctions on Monday
despite a push from some capitals to take a tough line.

Brussels
is expected to hold off until Navalny goes to court in early February to see if
the Kremlin puts him behind bars for an extended term.

Wave of protests

The
anti-corruption campaigner is facing three-and-a-half years in jail for
breaching the conditions of an earlier suspended sentence while recovering in
Germany from a near-fatal poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent.

His
arrest on returning to Russia unleashed a wave of protests on Saturday that saw
baton-wielding riot police detain more than 3 500 people.

While
sanctions appear unlikely for now, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell
will face pressure to abandon a trip to Moscow pencilled in for next month.

Borrell
labelled the arrests a “disproportionate use of force” and wrote on
Twitter that Monday’s meeting would discuss the EU’s “next steps”.

Brussels
has already hit Russia with sanctions for annexing Crimea and fuelling the
Ukraine conflict.

In
October, the bloc put six senior Russian officials on an assets freeze and
travel ban blacklist over the “assassination attempt” on Navalny.


Article source: https://www.news24.com/news24/World/News/eu-mulls-possible-sanctions-response-to-russias-crackdown-on-alexei-navalny-and-protesters-20210125

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