Navalny Urges EU to Target Key Figures Backing Putin
Recently poisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has urged the European Union to use tough sanctions in order to target major figures supporting the rule of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
44-year-old Navalny, the most prominent leader of the non-parliamentary opposition in Russian, is still recovering in Germany from an alleged poisoning with a substance similar to the Novichok nerve agent.
He fell ill on a plane back to Moscow during a visit in a Russian region in Siberia in August, he fell ill on a plane flight back to Moscow.
After his emergency hospitalization and treatment in the city of Omsk, he was transferred for treatment in Berlin at the insistence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, where he spent nearly three weeks in an induced coma.
Last month, the German government said Navalny had been poisoned with a substance similar to Soviet-era chemical weapon Novichok, which was allegeded employed by Russian military intelligence against the Skripal family in the UK back in 2019, and allegedly against Bulgarian arms producer Emiliyan Gebrev in Sofia back in 2015.
France, Sweden and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have confirmed that a Novichok-like substance had been used against Navalny.
In an interview for the German daily Bild published on Wednesday, Alexei Navalny called upon the EU to react to his poisoning by slapping strong targeted sanctions against major figures supporting Vladimir Putin’s government in Russia. Navalny has already declared that he considers Putin himself to be behind the poisoning attack.
“The most important is to impose entry bans against those profiting from the regime and to freeze their assets,” said Navalny, as cited by AFP.
“Oligarchs and high ranking officials, Putin’s closest circles,” he emphasized regarding the key figures he argued the EU should be targetting with sanctions.
The opposition leader emphasized, however, that any further EU sanctions should not hurt the general Russian population.
A number of Russian officials and major businesspeople are already under EU sanctions over Moscow 2014 seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, and the ongoing pro-Russian insurgency in the Eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass.
In his interview, Navalny, a long-time anti-corruption activist and a staunch critic of the Kremlin, mentioned as an example Valery Gergiev, chief conductor at philharmonic in Munich, Germany.
In his words, Gergiev is someone who should be held to account for his unapologetic backing for Putin.
“He is the perfect example. Such people must be put under pressure. People like him must be slapped with entry bans and you know what? 99 percent of Russians would welcome that,” Navalny argued.
He insisted that people like Gergiev were allowed to enjoy the best of both worlds in both Russia and the EU, and should be made to choose.
“If he loves the regime so much and wants Russia to not take the European path, then one must say to him: you’re a very talented musician, but we’re not allowing you to stay on in the EU. You can enjoy Putin’s regime in Russia,” the Russian opposition leader stated.
He lambasted former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a close friend of Russian leader Vladimir Putin who chairs the board of Russia’s state-controlled oil major Rosneft and heads the shareholders’ committee for the Nord Stream pipeline company.
“He is after all the former chancellor of Europe’s most powerful country. Now Schroeder is Putin’s errand boy who is protecting murderers,” Navalny said.
Last week, Schroeder dismissed claims of a Kremlin link to the Navalny case as “speculation”. Russia has rejected all allegations that it was behind Navalny’s poisoning.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, has made it clear it was yet to consult with its EU allies on what actions to take with respect to Russia over Navalny’s poisoning, arguing that “any deployment of a chemical weapon is a serious matter and cannot remain without consequences”.
At the same time, Merkel has also insisted that channels of dialogue with Moscow must remain open.
(Banner image: Alexei Navalny on Twitter)