BRUSSELS - EU foreign minsters on Monday reached a political agreement on fresh sanctions against Moscow in response to the jailing of Russia's opposition leader Alexey Navalny, AFP and DPA news agencies reported, citing diplomatic sources.
The ministers who have gathered for their regular meeting in Brussels, asked the bloc's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to finalize the list of names of individuals to be targeted, but no oligarchs would be included, a senior diplomat told AFP.
The political agreement, which is expected to be formally approved by the EU in March, came after France, Germany, Poland and the Baltic states urged the 27-member bloc to send a message to Putin that debate and protest must be allowed in Russia.
Citing two EU diplomats, Reuters news agency informed that the sanctions would be imposed on four senior Russian officials over the crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his supporters.
Although no official information has been given on the names of the officials who will be targeted with asset freezes and travel bans, Reuters reported that the sanctions would be applied to Alexander Bastrykin, head Investigative Committee of Russia, Alexander Kalashnikov, director of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN), Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard of the Russian Federation or Rosgvardiya and the Russian Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.
Navalny's aides and members of the European Parliament had called on the EU ministers to sanction Russia’s business elite - the so-called oligarchs.
EU governments say sanctions against senior state officials can better withstand legal challenges, while it is more difficult to prove business executives’ involvement in any human rights abuses.
Pressure in Europe for new sanctions has grown since Moscow expelled German, Polish and Swedish diplomats on February 5 without telling the EU’s foreign policy chief Borrell, who was visiting Moscow at the time.