EU to impose sanctions against Russia for jailing opposition leader Alexei Navalny

Navalny told Alexei at his court hearing in Moscow he had no regrets to return to Russia to a secure jail - REUTERS

The European Union will place sanctions on Russia to imprison one of Vladimir Putin's most outspoken opponents, Opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Head of the EU External Relations Service, Josep Borrell, said at a Brussels meeting on Monday that "political agreement" was reached between 27 EU foreign ministers on the need for sanctions.

The bloc will use the 'EU Magnitsky Act,' which permits for the first time the imposition of penalties for human rights abusses.

"There is a shared assessment in the Council that Russia is drifting towards an authoritarian state," said Mr Borrell in the aftermath of the Brussels Foreign Relations Council.

The EU's chief diplomat said that he hoped that the study on sanctions would be done within a week, directed at citizens "in the detaining and persecution of Mr Navalny"

"There is a shared assessment in the council that Russia is drifting towards an authoritarian state," said Mr. Borrell in Brussels after the meeting of the EU Foreign Relations Council.

"In response to events around the situation of Mr Navalny, we reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for his arrest and sentencing, and prosecution for doing that," he said.

He continued that "We will use the EU's global human rights regime for the first time ever. To this end, our regulatory mechanism will be pipelined with sanctions.

"Maybe it will take one week and I hope not more than that," he said, indicating that a written protocol should be completed.

Mr Borrell should put forward four names, but this amount could be expanded by Member States. He declined to mention officials who were named for the travel bans and the freezing of properties.

EU diplomats said that Alexander Bastrykin, whose investigation Committee deals directly with big crimes and reports to Mr Putin, is on the list.

Also mentioned are Igor Krasnov, the Prosecutor-General of Russia and Viktor Zolotov, Director of the NGO, as well as Alexander Kalashnikov, Head of the Federal Prison Service.

Mr Navalny's allies called on the EU with sanctions to hit Putin-aligned oligarchs, but fresh steps are not.

Mr Navalny told the European Parliament in November last year that the Kremlin will never take EU penalties seriously as long as the super-rich Russian yachts in European cities such as Barcelona and Munich were moored.

Mr. Borrell said that only people who were personally interested in the activities involving punishment could legalally be subject to penalties that meant that targeting the oligarchs was not possible.

He told journalists that the EU had followed a three-pronged policy in dealing with Moscow, which removed diplomats from Germany, Poland and Sweden on behalf of the Russian demonstration against the detention of Mr Navalny.

The policy included the reversal of international law and human rights abuses by Russia, the isolation of Russia in the use of EU misinformation and electronic warfare and common interest.

Mr Borrell was forced to defend himself after a disruptive trip to Moscow at the beginning of February which ended in his failure to meet Mr Navalny and to ensure his release alone.

In October, the EU struck six senior Russian officers with asset freezing and visa ban over Mr Navalny's contamination of a nerve agent. Mr Navalny accuses Vladimir Putin of the chemical weapons attack.

After a brief trial of his life, he was held for three and a half years following his return to Russia. Last week a court dismissed his appeal against his conviction.

Russian Ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said that Russia will be "ready to respond" to any Brussels sanctions which, according to him, were "illegitimate."

At the conference of EU foreign ministers on Monday, New American Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned Mr Navalny's chemical weapons strike.

Mr Borrell said he was 'reasonably confident' about the outlook of EU talks with Tehran on the return of the U.S. to the Iran nuclear agreement.

He said he hoped that "in the next days" there will be reports about the attempts to restore Washington's inclusion in the deal.