EU to debate sanctions on Russia after Navalny protest arrests

The Foreign Ministers of the European Union could consider fresh sanctions on Russian individuals on Monday, after more than 3,000 people were arrested across the country on Saturday demanding the release fo the opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Last week, Europe’s lawmakers called for strengthened sanctions against Russia, also saying that work to complete the Nord Stream 2 pipeline must be stopped immediately. The call has been echoed by several EU leaders and diplomats, who kept a hardline stance on Kremlin. 

“The only way to [prevent conflict] is to force international law to be observed. The only way to do this without rifles, cannons and bombs is via sanctions. So we are ready to help build consensus on that issue,” Polish President Andrzej Duda told the FT over the weekend. 

Citing “a change is in the air in Russia”, which Europe must support, Lithuania’s FM Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Monday that the bloc needs to send “a very clear and decisive message that this is not acceptable,” with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian describing the mass arrest of protesters and the police’s violent crackdown as a “slide towards authoritarianism.”

In the meantime, Russia has accused the West of a “professionally prepared provocation” by inciting protests in support of Kremlin critic Navalny and of “interfering” into the internal affairs of the country. 

The Twitter post by the Russian Embassy in the UK came a day after dozens of thousands joined the anti-government rallies in several cities, from Vladivostok all the way to Moscow, defying heavy police presence and COVID restrictions prohibiting mass events.