EU agrees meagre sanctions on Russian officials

Photo: EPA Heiko Maas

EU foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions on four top Russian officials, following the crackdown against Alexei Navalny supporters of the Kremlin critic, diplomatic sources said cited by news agencies. The symbolic response came after France, Germany, Poland and the Baltics urged the Union to sanction the Kremlin.

However, according to the EU diplomats, the Monday meeting did not address specific names, and the Union is now set to discuss the framework of restrictions, including asset freezes and visa bans against individuals responsible for the repressive actions against protesters and Navalny himself.

Prior to the meeting German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas expressed his support for sanctions as well as keeping dialogue channels with Russia open. "I am in favour of ordering the preparation of additional sanctions, of listings of specific persons," Maas said on his arrival to the talks. "At the same time we need to talk about how to keep up a constructive dialogue with Russia, even as relations certainly have reached a low," he added.

Eight EU foreign ministers, as well as several EU ambassadors, met with two of Navalny's close allies on Sunday evening ahead of the talks. One of them, Leonid Volkov, disclosed to the AFP news agency that the group had "talked about targeted personal sanctions against Putin's closest allies and people who are guilty of major human rights violations."

Relations between Russia and the EU have continued to break down despite a recent visit by EU foreign police chief Josep Borrell to Moscow, widely considered to have been a catastrophe. Borrell himself admitted before Monday's meeting that "it's clear that Russia is on a confrontational course with the EU."

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