Sunday, February 28, 2021

Navalny aides press EU leaders to expand Russian sanctions – POLITICO

Must read

Top aides to Alexei Navalny accused Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday of jailing their boss and other opposition figures to eliminate competition in upcoming national elections, and they urged EU leaders to use European Court of Human Rights case files to identify investigators, judges and prosecutors who should be sanctioned for their role in political abuses. 

Navalny and his associates have called loudly and publicly for the EU to sanction oligarchs close to Putin, especially those who maintain a large portion of their wealth in Europe — a demand that poses a thicket of legal obstacles. But during a stop in Brussels on Monday, two of Navalny’s top lieutenants, Leonid Volkov and Ivan Zhdanov, told reporters they had also pressed the EU to punish the Russian officials who assist in illicit prosecutions. And they pointed to the European Court of Human Rights as a repository of evidence.

In that sense, Volkov and Zhdanov offered a potential new roadmap for EU foreign ministers, who on Monday agreed to impose new sanctions over Navalny’s imprisonment, but will only now start working out all of the details.

“Putin is going full steam into his electoral campaign now, like clearing the political field, evaporating all potential opposition candidates,” Volkov, who is Navalny’s chief of staff, told reporters at a briefing Monday. “Our message was that Europe should evaluate the upcoming election in this context — not only how the votes will be counted.”

Volkov and Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, also had pointed words for EU leaders, saying it’s naive to think Putin will cooperate with them, even on a limited basis.

“We just have to be logical,” Volkov said. “When Putin just laughs in Europe’s face on human rights — on his obligations toward the European Court of Human Rights, on his obligations towards like the Chemical Weapons Convention — how could we logically assume that it would make any sense to negotiate with him on climate change, or anti-money laundering or whatever?”

That message was clearly intended in part for leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron, who has repeatedly said he is seeking a rapprochement with Putin, and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who recently traveled to Moscow seeking to reopen dialogue only to end up embarrassed as Russia expelled three European diplomats during his visit.

But Monday’s advice on punishing human rights violators was most pertinent, given that it came the same day EU foreign ministers gave the green light to impose new sanctions.

In response to a question, Volkov said that Navalny’s allies would support sanctions against officials from Putin’s political party, United Russia, as well as members of Russia’s Central Election Commission. But he conceded those measures were unlikely and said focusing on officials named in European Court of Human Rights decisions could make more sense.

“Europe has actually built a huge database of human rights violators that just needs to be applied, and this is the database of the existing verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights,” Volkov said. “There are thousands of violations and they are all documented. So every time we get arrested for participation in a rally, we appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.”

He added: “This will help Russian civil society very much, actually, when the next time the judge would think about arresting some of our colleagues for another 15 days for participating in a rally — that this could close him and her way to their vacation in France or in Italy.”

The two opposition figures said Borrell’s recent trip to Moscow showed that it was silly for the EU to try to develop a dialogue with Putin or Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“Lavrov, Putin have considered Borrell’s visit as a sign of weakness,” Volkov said, “and acted upon it.”

Source link

More articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest article