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European Union weighs troubled Russia ties, fresh sanctions

10:45 PM Feb 22, 2021 | Pramod

Brussels: European Union foreign ministers on Monday will look at options for imposing fresh sanctions against Russia over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as the 27-nation bloc considers the future of its troubled ties with the country.

The ministers will discuss possible names of Russian officials and whether to target them individually or whether to use a new system of measures aimed at human rights abuses. But they appear unlikely to impose restrictions on oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, as Navalny has requested.

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"It's clear that Russia is on a confrontational course with the European Union," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. "In the case of Mr Navalny, there is a blunt refusal to respect their engagements, including the refusal of taking into account the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights."

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German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was in favour of "issuing the mandate to impose such sanctions, preparing the listing of individuals." A final decision on any sanctions is likely to be taken by EU leaders at a summit in Brussels in mid-March.

Earlier this month, a court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany.

The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated.

The European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that it's unlawful. Navalny's arrest and imprisonment have fuelled a huge wave of protests across Russia. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

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