Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg expects the European Union to adopt new sanctions against Russia over the case of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.
A step likely could be taken when European foreign ministers meet on February 22, he said in an interview with Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
“We will discuss at the Foreign Affairs Council appropriate reactions to the case of Navalny,” Schallenberg said.
This would likely include targeted measures against individuals and organizations under the bloc’s newly created sanctions instrument to punish human rights violators.
Schallenberg said he expects “a broad majority of support” for sanctions among the EU’s 27 members, but added the sanctions “have to be politically smart and legally watertight.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter on February 21 that “EU actions” will be discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on February 22.
Borrell said the courts in Russia continue to ignore a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) asking the Russian government to free him.
A Moscow court on February 20 upheld Navalny’s prison sentence relating to his embezzlement conviction, but reduced the sentence by about 50 days considering time served. Later in the day, Navalny was fined a large sum on charges of insulting a World War II veteran.
Both trials were decried as politically motivated.
Navalny was arrested last month on his return from Germany where he was recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he and supporters say was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.