European Union forces sanctions on 6 Russians over opposition leader Alexei Navalny poisoning

European Union forces sanctions on 6 Russians over opposition leader Alexei Navalny poisoning. Six Russian officials and one organization were slapped with sanctions by the European Union (EU) over the poisoning of Russian Opposition leader Alexei Navalny with a Soviet-time nerve agent.

The move went ahead Thursday after Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Moscow might respond with comparative measures. The decision was agreed upon among the 27 EU envoys to Brussels.

“The adopted restrictive measures consist of a travel ban to the EU and an asset freeze for people, and an asset freeze for the entity,” the EU said in a statement. The list includes two high level officials in the Presidential Executive Office, a director of the federal security service and two deputy ministers in the Russian defense ministry.

The EU is also targeting the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology. On Monday, the EU foreign ministers agreed to force the sanctions, following a push by France and Germany to freeze the assets of those suspected of involvement and ban them from traveling in Europe under sanctions to combat the use and spread of substance weapons.

‘Moscow might even sever ties’

Alexei Navalny, an anti-corruption investigator and major political opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, became sick on August 20 during a domestic flight in Russia. He was traveled to Germany for treatment two days later and is still recovering there.

Last week, tests conducted at laboratories designated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed that Navalny was poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent.

The Russian foreign minister said in an interview on Wednesday that “the Germans are not wanting to provide any facts, despite all international and legal obligations”. “We respond in kind. This is diplomatic practice,” he said. On Tuesday, Lavrov suggested that Moscow might even disavow. “We probably basically have to temporarily stop talking to those people in the West who are responsible for foreign policy and don’t understand the need for mutually respectful discourse,” he added.

Lavrov specifically pointed at European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s recent statements precluding a partnership with Russia, saying that situation will play out if that is what the EU wants. “Russia wants to understand whether it’s possible to do any business with the EU in the current conditions,” Lavrov said at a foreign policy conference attended by experts in Moscow.

In a phone call with Lavrov on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted that the EU “wishes to maintain open channels of communication with Russia and to improve cooperation on issues of mutual interest”, according to a statement from Borrell’s office. Borrell also underlined that Moscow “must do its utmost to investigate this crime thoroughly in full transparency and to completely cooperate” with the OPCW, and that the EU “will continue to defend its interests and qualities, including respect for international law and fundamental rights.”

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