While speaking in front of the European Parliament on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell expressed dissatisfaction with how the Russian government handled the protests across the country, in demand of the release of the opposition leader Alexey Navalny.
Last week’s rare visit to Moscow to push for Alexey Navalny’s release wasn’t as a smooth one for the EU diplomat as Borrell was not impressed with how the Russian government was handling the issue of protestors. He was arrested in mid-January upon his arrival in Moscow after recovering in Germany from an alleged attempted assassination on his life through the Novichok poisoning attack. And, now serving a jail term of nearly 3-years for violating parole conditions of his suspended sentence while in Germany.
The EU immediately posed sanctions on six people and a state organization in Russia by blacklisting them over the attempted assassination of Alexey Navalny. After maintaining a seven-year slew of sanctions against Russia, which include economic penalties over its annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and the rebels’ support.
Borrell highlighted the Russian government’s alarming worries against democracy and increasingly authoritarian insisting, “They are merciless.” He further points out the current Russian power structure, which consists of economic interests, political control, and military, which demean the democratic rule of law.
The tension between the EU and Russia has heightened following the imprisonment of the opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the expelling of 3 European diplomats by Moscow, accusing them of taking part in pro-Navalny protests.
On Monday, Germany, Poland, and Sweden ordered removing a Russian diplomat each in retaliation.
Western leaders are demanding the immediate release of Navalny from prison, with several European nations rallying their support behind Borrell’s threat of additional sanctions on Russia.
However, Russia remains adamant not to hinder Western criticism of Navalny’s sentencing and police forceful action against his supporters calling out on his release from jail.
Instead, through the Russia Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, the Kremlin insinuated that Navalny’s allies were “agents of influence” of NATO. And, pointed out to an online conference on Monday with US, UK, and EU officials that Vladimir Ashurkov and Leonid Volkov, a Navalny ally based outside Russia, took part on.
Later on, Volkov tweeted that sanctions were being discussed at the event against tycoons and individual Russian officials.
Despite Alexey Navalny being in prison, his team insists that for the Kremlin to change its stand on Navalny unlawful imprisonment, the West should impose sanctions against oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin intends to back up legislation to uphold those calling for sanctions against Russia criminally liable, and anyone violating the law, a statement from Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
Recent protests saw at least 10,000 people arrested who were protesting for the release of Alexey Navalny’s opposition from jail. But, at the moment, the mass rallies have been postponed until spring or summer.
On February 22, EU foreign ministers are set to debate on possible sanctions against Russia in Brussels.
Rachel Lott is a Reporter for Chroniclex After graduating from Cuyahoga Community College, Rachel got an internship at USA Evening and worked as a Reporter and Producer. Rachel has also worked as a Reporter for WKYC TV and Fox News Channel. Rachel Covers International Developments.