EU announces new package of sanctions against four Russian officials over jailing of Navalny, as Moscow pledges to respond in kind

Brussels has unveiled a list of officials it claims are responsible for the detention of opposition figure Alexey Navalny and “human rights violations” during the policing of subsequent protests, in sanctions announced on Tuesday.

The individuals will now face economic and diplomatic measures from the European Union. The group includes Alexander Kalashnikov, the director of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, which was responsible for enforcing Navalny’s arrest after he lost contact with probation officers while serving a suspended sentence for fraud.

Also on the list is Alexander Bastrykin, the chairman of the national Investigative Committee, which is responsible for probing serious crimes. According to Eurocrats, “he is responsible for serious human rights violations in Russia, including arbitrary arrests and detentions.”

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Igor Krasnov, the country’s prosecutor general, will similarly face sanctions for having “supported the request by the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service to convert the suspended sentence imposed on Alexey Navalny in a case of alleged fraud to a prison sentence.”

The fourth name included on the list is Viktor Zolotov, the director of the National Guard, which was deployed to police pro-Navalny demonstrations that took place in cities across Russia over the course of two consecutive weekends in January. The EU decision cites alleged aggression by authorities against journalists, “including Meduza’s correspondent Kristina Safronova, who was hit by [a riot police] officer, and Novaya Gazeta’s journalist Yelizaveta Kirpanova, who was hit on the head with a truncheon leaving her bleeding.”

Earlier on Tuesday, in response to reports that Brussels and Washington would soon unveil sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that Moscow would respond in kind.

“We will react unequivocally,” the country’s top diplomat announced. “Nobody has cancelled one of the main rules of diplomacy – reciprocity.”

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According to him, the Western measures are “illegitimate and unilateral, of the kind our American colleagues, and the EU members who follow their example, almost always resort to without any reason.”

The escalation, Lavrov argued, was because “there is nothing to show in order to substantiate their claims about Navalny’s poisoning, when all those who treated him are carefully hiding facts that would help us to understand what happened to him.”

“In parallel,” Moscow’s foreign policy chief added, “instead of honestly co-operating and working transparently, they begin to punish us… then, in my opinion, this doesn’t honor anyone making these decisions.”

On Monday, Lavrov’s deputy, Alexander Grushko, told journalists that “there will, of course, be a reaction from our side.” However, he cautioned that until the content of Western sanctions was made public, there was no point “trying to read the tea leaves.”

It is expected that Washington will also release details of its own sanctions package later on Tuesday.

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