EU imposes new sanctions targeting Russian officials over human rights abuses and repression

Foreign ministers from the 27 EU member nations gave final approval during a meeting in Brussels to the sanctions architecture, which was informally dubbed the “Navalny regime” after jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The European Union on Monday imposed a new sanctions regime that could see asset freezes and travel bans imposed on Russian individuals and organisations deemed responsible for human rights abuses and the repression of opposition voices.

Foreign ministers from the 27 EU member nations gave final approval during a meeting in Brussels to the sanctions architecture, which was informally dubbed the “Navalny regime” after jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Around 20 Russian officials and organizations are expected to be hit with asset freezes and travel bans under the new regime, according to diplomatic sources quoted by the German news agency DPA.

Navalny is currently serving prison sentences totalling more than 11 years on charges that he and his supporters say were trumped up to silence his criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His continued jailing despite widespread international condemnation has become a sore point in EU-Russia relations.

Monday’s move significantly expands the EU’s punitive capability against Moscow beyond existing economic sanctions imposed over Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. The conflict took a more devastating turn with Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

While united in opposing Russian aggression, EU countries remained divided over the details of a new package of economic sanctions against Moscow over the Ukraine war, including whether to impose new restrictions on the Russian nuclear sector or diamond imports.

Diplomats cited by DPA said some members want to target Russia’s small diamond-mining sector, while others are pushing for measures against Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

The European Commission has floated the idea of banning Russian liquefied natural gas from EU ports, with some countries calling for an outright ban on LNG imports while others want to allow transit shipments to third countries.

With tensions still high, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned against “sanctions fatigue” and vowed that the bloc will be prepared to react strongly if Russia takes the war to another level.