Russia warns will retaliate if EU imposes new sanctions over Navalny

WION Web Team
Moscow, RussiaUpdated: Feb 11, 2021, 09:21 PM IST

Alexei Navalny reaches Russia from Germany Photograph:(AFP)

Story highlights

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss their next moves on Russia at a meeting on February 22. 

Russia has said it would retaliate in case the European Union imposes new sanctions on Moscow over the sentence of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

In January, tens of thousands of Russians rallied for two consecutive weekends against President Vladimir Putin's 20-year rule and demanded the release of Navalny, who was sentenced to nearly three years in prison last week. 

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell earlier this week said he would propose the bloc impose new sanctions on Russia, as he blasted the imprisonment of Navalny and the crackdown.

Borrell made the comments during an address to the European Parliament after a chastening visit to Russia last week, during which Moscow announced the shock expulsion of three European diplomats.

Moscow had, last week, announced the expulsion of diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden during the rare meeting in Moscow between Borrell and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

To this end, Navalny's supporters called on the EU to sanction the moneymen they accuse of protecting Putin's wealth and financing his regime.

"I would like to warn our EU partners against taking rash steps," Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters Thursday.

Any new sanctions, she said, "will inevitably be followed by a proportionate response," Zakharova added.

The EU's ties with Russia have been tense since Moscow seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014 and fuelled the war in eastern Ukraine.

Relations worsened further after Navalny, Putin's most prominent domestic opponent, was sentenced to prison following his return to Russia last month from Germany, where he had been recovering from a poisoning attack. He was jailed over parole allegations he denied in a criminal case he said was trumped up to stymie his political ambitions.

Navalny's jailing sparked widespread protests across Russia that saw at least 10,000 people detained. 

EU foreign ministers are set to discuss their next moves on Russia at a meeting on February 22. 

(with inputs from agencies)