In this photo posted on the Instagram account of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, Navalny, center, poses for a photo with his wife Yulia and their son Zahar in an unknown location in Germany.(AP)
In this photo posted on the Instagram account of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, Navalny, center, poses for a photo with his wife Yulia and their son Zahar in an unknown location in Germany.(AP)

In hardening stance, France, Germany push for EU sanctions on Russians over Navalny

Several Western governments have said Russia, which has denied accusations by Navalny that it was involved in the poisoning, must help in investigations or face consequences.
By Reuters | Posted by Shankhyaneel Sarkar | Paris/Brussels
UPDATED ON OCT 07, 2020 11:24 PM IST

France and Germany said on Wednesday they would propose European Union sanctions against Russian individuals after receiving no credible answers from Moscow over the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny with a nerve agent.

Several Western governments have said Russia, which has denied accusations by Navalny that it was involved in the poisoning, must help in investigations or face consequences.

The decision and speed with which Europe’s two main powers agreed to push ahead with sanctions suggests a hardening of the bloc’s diplomacy towards Moscow.

It is in stark contrast to 2018 when it took almost a year for members to agree on sanctions against Russian individuals following a nerve agent attack on a Russian spy in Britain.

“No credible explanation has been provided by Russia so far. In this context, we consider that there is no other plausible explanation for Mr Navalny’s poisoning than a Russian involvement and responsibility,” Foreign Ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian and Heiko Maas said in a joint statement.

Diplomats had earlier told Reuters the two countries would propose sanctions on Russian GRU military intelligence officials when the EU’s 27 foreign ministers meet on Oct. 12.

“Drawing the necessary conclusions from these facts, France and Germany will share with European partners proposals for additional sanctions,” the two ministers said.

“Proposals will target individuals deemed responsible for this crime and breach of international norms, based on their official function, as well as an entity involved in the Novichok programme.”

Blood samples taken from Navalny confirmed the presence of a nerve agent from the banned Novichok family, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Tuesday.

EU foreign ministers are expected to give their political support on Monday, but the sanctions are not expected to be approved immediately as legal texts must be prepared and cleared by experts from the 27 EU states.

Le Drian told a parliamentary committee in Paris on Wednesday: “We say with Germany that clarification by Russia is indispensable and if it doesn’t clarify then we will need to draw conclusions among Europeans. We are in sync with Germany.”

He said Paris was not closing the door to dialogue with Moscow.

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