UPDATE – EU to impose sanctions on Russia over Navalny case


By Agnes Szucs

BRUSSELS (AA) – EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions on Russian officials over the sentencing of opposition figure Alexey Navalny.

“We reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for his [Navalny’s] arrest, sentencing, and persecution,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a news conference following the top diplomats’ meeting.

The foreign ministers’ consensus gives the green light for EU diplomats to work out the exact details and targets of the restrictive measures. The final decision on sanctions will be taken later by written procedure.

Borrell said he expects the sanctions to be adopted within a week.

The EU foreign ministers “shared the assessment that Russia is driving towards an authoritarian state and drifting away from Europe,” Borrell explained.

This will be the first time that the bloc uses its Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

The scheme, adopted in 2020, enables the EU to target individuals, entities, and other bodies responsible for serious human rights violations.

The regime implies travel bans and asset freezes for those responsible for human rights abuses. It also prohibits European individuals and firms from making funds available to those listed.

On Saturday, a Moscow court ruling resulted in a prison sentence for Navalny of two years and eight months for violating parole.

He was arrested in the Russian capital upon his return in January from Germany, where he had received treatment after alleged poisoning by Russian agents last year.

– Iran nuclear deal

The EU foreign ministers also discussed the bloc’s efforts to resume talks with Iran and the US on the 2015 nuclear deal.

“It’s much more important to go back to JCPOA than to go back to the Paris Agreement” on climate change, he said, using the formal name for the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“The Paris Agreement is not controversial, while JCPOA is,” he explained.

The nuclear agreement was signed in 2015 by Iran, the US, China, Russia, France, the UK, Germany, and the EU.

Under the deal, Tehran committed to limit its nuclear activity to civilian purposes and in return, world powers agreed to drop their economic sanctions on Iran.

But in 2018 the US Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the agreement and reimposed sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to stop complying with the deal.

US President Joe Biden has recently pushed to revive the deal.