BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers on Monday will look at options for imposing fresh sanctions against Russia over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as the 27-nation bloc considers the future of its troubled ties with the country.
The ministers will discuss possible names of Russian officials and whether to target them individually or whether to use a new system of measures aimed at human rights abuses. But they appear unlikely to impose restrictions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, as Navalny has requested.
“It’s clear that Russia is on a confrontational course with the European Union,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. “In the case of Mr Navalny, there is a blunt refusal to respect their engagements, including the refusal of taking into account the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.”
Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption investigator and Putin’s most prominent critic, was arrested in Moscow last month upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
Earlier this month, a court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated.
The European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that it’s unlawful.
Borrell said he hoped that the ministers will respond “in a united and determined way.” But so far EU countries have been deeply divided over their approach to Moscow.
European heavyweight Germany has strong economic interests there, notably the NordStream 2 undersea pipeline project, and a number of countries, including France, are also reluctant to wade into any sanctions battle over Navalny.
The Associated Press