EU mulls tougher sanctions over Navalny sentence as top envoy heads to Russia
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell jets to Moscow on Thursday under pressure to confront the Kremlin over the jailing of Alexei Navalny and a crackdown on protesters.
The visit – the first to Russia by a top EU envoy since 2017 – has drawn criticism from some European capitals worried Moscow will spin it as evidence Brussels is keen to return to business as normal.
But Borrell insists he will deliver “clear messages” to the Kremlin despite it blanking Western calls to release President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic opponent Navalny, who was on Tuesday given a jail term of almost three years.
“It is when things are not going well that you must engage,” the former Spanish foreign minister said on Monday.
The EU’s ties with Russia have been in the doldrums since Moscow seized Crimea and began fuelling the war in Ukraine in 2014 – and there are concerns about its involvement in Belarus, Syria, Libya, central Africa and the Caucasus.
Borrell is eager to sound out his veteran counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the chances of cooperation on issues including enlisting Russia’s help in reviving the Iran nuclear deal and tackling climate change.
But it will be the jailing of Navalny and detention of thousands of demonstrators across Russia by baton-wielding security forces that dominates his visit.
Nonsense, says Kremlin
The EU foreign policy chief is under no illusions that he can pressure Moscow into freeing Navalny – and the Kremlin has already warned him off.
“We hope that such nonsense as linking the prospects of Russia-EU relations with the resident of a detention centre will not happen,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Moscow stands “ready to do everything” to develop ties with Brussels, but the Kremlin is “not ready to listen to advice” on the issue of Navalny, he said…..read more