European foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on four of the most senior Russian officials. The four are close to President Putin. The sanctions are primarily a symbolic response to the imprisonment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
He was sentenced to 3.5 years in prison early this month. Navalny appealed, but a Moscow court rejected the appeal. The length of his detention was cut short, and his sentence was shortened by six weeks. This means Navalny has to be in a concentration camp for more than 2.5 years.
The sanctions include a travel ban for the European Union, and bank assets have been frozen. The European Union is likely to formally approve the agreement in early March. France, Germany, Poland and the Baltic states had called on the member states of the European Union to send a message to Putin that it was possible to hold discussions and protests in Russia.
Navalny was arrested in Moscow last month after traveling from Germany to Russia. He stayed in Germany, where he was recovering from a poisoning that was almost costing him his life. His arrest sparked a wave of protests in Russia.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision to impose sanctions was taken quickly. He did not elaborate. He said, “The relationship with Russia is definitely late, and there are no other words for it.”
Navalny wanted to sanction the oligarchy
Dealing with the four officials was not what Navalny herself had been hoping for. He spoke with members of the European Parliament at the end of November and called on Brussels to announce sanctions against the wealthy Russian oligarchs. Navalny argues that if they can no longer dock their luxury yachts in the ports of Monaco and Barcelona, they will put pressure on Putin to change course.
NOS op 3 previously made this video about Navalny: