EU leaders agree to sanction Russia over Navalny poisoning

Brussels, Oct 12 (efe-epa).- European Union foreign ministers agreed on Monday to impose sanctions against Russians accused of poisoning opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

“It was a complete acceptance by all member states, everybody was supporting this proposal,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said at a press conference after a meeting in Luxembourg.

He added that technical work will begin to prepare the restrictive measures on the basis of a list proposed jointly by France and Germany, which submitted evidence on the case.

Borrell made it clear that the EU sanctions will be imposed for the attempted assassination of Navalny but that dialogue with Moscow could continue.

Details of who could be the subject of sanctions or when they could be enforced have not yet been released.

Navalny, a political activist and Kremlin critic, collapsed on a domestic flight in Siberia on 20 August and was transferred to Berlin two days later.

A German army laboratory found he was exposed to a nerve agent from the Novichok group, which was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s and used to poison former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in 2018 in the United Kingdom.

France and Germany said in a joint statement on Friday that Moscow has given “no credible explanation” in the case and that “there is no other plausible explanation for Mr Navalny’s poisoning than a Russian involvement and responsibility”.

EU foreign ministers also agreed to impose further sanctions over the violent oppression of political protesters in Belarus, including against the country’s leader Alexandr Lukashenko.

The Council said in a statement that presidential elections in the country on 9 August were “neither free nor fair” and that Lukashenko, who was declared the landslide winner, “lacks any democratic legitimacy”.

It reiterated its “full support for Belarus’s sovereignty and independence” and the democratic right of the Belarusian people to elect their president through new, free and fair elections, without external interference”.

The EU imposed sanctions against 40 Belarusian officials in early October and ministers have agreed that these could be extended to include Lukashenko.

“The Council strongly condemns the violence employed by the Belarusian authorities against peaceful protesters, and calls for the release of all arbitrarily detained persons, including political prisoners,” it added.

Germany proposed that the Belarusian president be subjected to travel restrictions in EU territory and have his assets frozen.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said before the meeting: “The Lukashenko regime continues to exercise violence, we still see arrests of peaceful demonstrators.

“I proposed to pave the way for another sanctions package, and Lukashenko should be one of the people on this sanctions list.” EFE-EPA


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