Germany, France seek EU sanctions on Russia over Navalny

Germany and France urged on Monday their EU partners on Monday to consider imposing sanctions on Russians suspected of poisoning Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent, Reuters reported. Berlin and Paris say they have not had a credible explanation from Moscow for the presence of the banned Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in his body.

“This (violation of the chemical convention) cannot remain without consequences,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said arriving at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg. “France and Germany propose imposing sanctions on certain people that caught our eye in this respect,” he added, without giving details. Diplomats say the two countries plan to propose sanctions on several Russian GRU military intelligence officials.

Western governments and NATO have said Russia, which has denied accusations by Navalny that it was involved in poisoning him in August, must help in investigations or face consequences. Austria's foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg also piointed out that there could not be a “return to business as usual” and that Moscow had failed to help clear up doubts about the poisoning.

The speed with which Europe's main powers have agreed to push ahead with sanctions suggested a hardening of the bloc's diplomacy towards Moscow. It contrasts to 2018, when it took almost a year for the EU to agree sanctions against Russians following a nerve agent attack on a Russian spy in Britain.

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