13 Oct 2020
The European Union agreed Monday to impose targeted sanctions against Russian officials and entities allegedly involved in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny but officials insisted the move should not undercut Europe’s continued high-level contacts with President Vladimir Putin.
Foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg backed a Franco-German proposal to impose a travel ban and asset freeze, although a final list must still be approved. Diplomats have said France and Germany last week put forward a list of between six to eight people and one entity as proposed sanctions targets.
Separately, the bloc agreed to impose a new round of sanctions on Belarus officials, including President Alexander Lukashenko, over the repression of protesters and what western capitals say was the fraudulent presidential elections of Aug. 9. Mr. Putin has backed Mr. Lukashenko.
European officials have said evidence that Mr. Navalny was poisoned with Novichok indicates that the attack was likely carried out by Russian state actors. The military-grade poison was developed in the former Soviet Union and then Russia, and the materials needed to produce the nerve agent are highly restricted.
“We have agreed to enact sanctions against individuals that we consider to be responsible for this violation of international law,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the meeting. “It is important that the European Union shows unity concerning such a serious crime.”
The Kremlin has denied having any role in harming Mr. Navalny but Western calls for a serious Russian investigation into the incident have gone unanswered. Russia has said it needs more evidence from Germany to open an investigation.
“They are introducing sanctions over an issue that has no legal basis, no evidence, or documentation,” Vladimir Jabarov, the deputy head of the Federation Council’s committee on international affairs, told Russian news agency Interfax. He said that Moscow would respond to the sanctions.
Mr. Navalny fell ill in late August while traveling in Russia and was taken to Berlin for treatment a few days later. He was discharged from the hospital in late September. Russia has disputed the findings of European laboratories that Mr. Navalny had been poisoned by Novichok.
By Laurence Norman and Thomas Grove, The Wall Street Journal, 12 October 2020
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