EYEAFRICA TV: Brussels, BELGIUM:- Foreign ministers from EU countries have agreed to place further sanctions against Russian officials over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, EU diplomatic sources say.
Navalny was detained last month after returning to Russia from Germany, where he was being treated for a near-fatal nerve agent attack.
He has blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attack and says the charges against him are fabricated. The Kremlin denies any involvement in his poisoning.
Hours later, he was convicted in the same court of slandering a World War Two veteran and fined the equivalent of $11,500 (£8,200).
In the first case, Navalny was accused of breaking the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement that required him to report regularly to Russian police.
If confirmed, it will be the first time the EU has used a new mechanism to facilitate punitive measures against human rights abuses.
The agreement was reached on Monday at a meeting in Brussels, where it was said four Russian officials are being targetted.
According to diplomatic sources, the people on the list will be hit with asset freezes and entry bans to the bloc, which will likely take effect once European leaders meet next month.
The EU’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell has been given the task of drawing up the names of officials facing sanctions, according to diplomats.
The move follows Borrell’s much criticised visit to Moscow earlier this month. He made no headway over Navalny and Russia expelled diplomats from three EU countries during his trip.
Russia, which accuses the EU of meddling in its affairs, warned that it was “ready to react” to a “new cycle of restrictive, unilateral, illegitimate measures”, Moscow’s ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, told the German newspaper Die Welt before the EU ministers’ meeting.
It will be the first time that Brussels uses its recently established sanctions regime, similar to the Magnitsky Act in the US.
This mechanism enables the 27 member states to punish those considered responsible for human rights abuses through the freezing of assets and travel bans.
The US law is named after Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian jail after uncovering a huge fraud scheme allegedly involving government officials.
Last October the European Union imposed sanctions on six individuals and one entity it believed were involved in Navalny’s poisoning.