By Alberto Nardelli and Milda Seputyte
European Union ambassadors approved sanctions against four senior Russian law enforcement officials over the jailing of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, according to three people familiar with Monday’s decision.
Once finalized, the sanctions will be the first under the EU’s new human rights regime. The measures would target four individuals, according to one of the people:
- Viktor Zolotov, the head of Russia’s National Guard
- Igor Krasnov, Russia’s prosecutor general
- Alexander Kalashnikov, the Federal Penitentiary Service chief
- And Alexander Bastrykin, who leads the Investigative Committee that oversaw the probe
Both Zolotov and Bastrykin are longtime associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin; Bastrykin was a law classmate of Putin’s and Zolotov worked with him in the 90s.
The narrow focus of the punitive measures won’t have a material impact on the Russian economy. Allies of 44-year old Navalny, who was sentenced by a Russian court to 2.5 years in jail, had called on the bloc to sanction senior officials, state bankers and billionaires such as Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. A spokesperson for Abramovich has said there’s no foundation to claims made against him by Navalny and his allies. Usmanov has not responded to requests for comment.
Navalny returned to Russia in January after being treated in Germany for a nerve agent attack on his life. He was detained shortly after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Western governments and Navalny have accused the Kremlin of being behind the attempted assassination. Russia denies the attack and has said that Navalny’s imprisonment is an internal matter.
Navalny was moved to a notorious penal camp 100 kilometers (60 miles) east of Moscow late last week.