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EU set to agree sanctions over Russia, Myanmar crackdowns

BRUSSELS: EU foreign ministers are expected Monday to approve sanctions against those behind Russia’s crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and his supporters, as well as those responsible for the coup in Myanmar.

The top diplomats from the 27-nation bloc meet in Brussels for talks that will also include a wide-ranging video conference with new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

But it will be responses to a raft of abuses in various regions that will dominate, with Venezuelan authorities also in the crosshairs over widely-criticised elections last year.

The move to target the Kremlin comes two weeks after EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was caught in a diplomatic ambush in Moscow that enraged member states.

Capitals are eyeing using the EU’s new human rights sanctions regime for the first time to hit individuals responsible for the clampdown with asset freezes and visa bans, diplomats said.

“I expect a political agreement to be reached,” a senior European diplomat told AFP.

“Then experts from the member states should work on the names.”

Waves of sanctions

Late Sunday, two of Navalny’s closest allies met in Brussels with eight EU foreign ministers and several EU ambassadors ahead of Monday’s meeting.

One of the allies, Leonid Volkov, told AFP they “talked about targeted personal sanctions against Putin’s closest allies and people who are guilty of major human rights violations”.

But European diplomats say only those directly implicated in Russia’s treatment of Navalny can be targeted because the list needs to stand up to any challenge in court.

The Sunday meeting was organised by Lithuania, whose foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, did not identify the other EU participants.

“The biggest hope for tomorrow (Monday) is that we will make a unanimous decision about the list” of people to be sanctioned, Landsbergis told AFP.

The mood towards Moscow has hardened in the wake of Borrell’s disastrous trip to Russia, during which Moscow announced the expulsion of three European diplomats and rebuffed talk of cooperation.

The EU has already hit Russia with waves of sanctions over the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Moscow’s fuelling of the war in Ukraine.

The bloc in October slapped six officials on a blacklist over the poisoning of Navalny with Novichok, a nerve agent.

President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critic was this month jailed for almost three years after returning to Russia following treatment in Germany.

His sentencing sparked nationwide protests that saw baton-wielding security forces detain thousands.

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