The European Union imposed sanctions on Russia in October following the poison attack on opposition politician Aleksej Navalny. Russia has now reacted with sanctions of its own.
The Kremlin’s sanctions include entry bans for representatives from Germany and other EU countries. The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had decided to “extend the list of representatives of EU member states who are banned from entering the Russian Federation.”
The Navalny Poisoning
Navalny was poisoned in August with a chemical nerve agent developed in Russia by the Novichok group. For this reason, the EU issued sanctions against senior members of the Russian government in October. The sanctions included targeted restrictions against the first deputy head of the presidential administration Sergei Kiriyenko, director of the domestic intelligence service Alexander Bortnikow and against two deputy defense ministers.
The EU sanctions include entry bans and asset freezes. In addition, Europeans are no longer allowed to do business with those affected.
Lavrov Hinted at Russian Counter-Sanctions in November
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov then announced potential counter-sanctions in November. At a press conference, he had said: “Because Germany was the locomotive for the EU sanctions in connection with Navalny and because the sanctions affect senior employees of the Russian presidential administration, our answer will mirror it.” He also announced sanctions for France.
Germany has repeatedly called on Russia to investigate and explain the attempt on Navalny’s life. Russia, on the other hand, has denounced the EU’s accusations against them as baseless.
Details on Russia’s Sanctions
According to the Foreign Office in Berlin, the Russian sanctions that have now been issued include “entry bans on German government agencies”. Meanwhile, the German government believes that the measures are “unjustified”.
“We continue to call on Russia to clarify the use of a chemical warfare agent on Russian territory against a Russian citizen,” the foreign office said.
It is still unknown who exactly these sanctions will hit on the German side. Likely, the persons concerned will only notice punitive measures upon entry, a common practice by Russia.
The Moscow Foreign Ministry previously invited the chargé d’affaires of the German embassy and representatives of the embassies of France and Sweden to an interview to inform them about the sanctions.
Russia’s Past Actions
Russia had already responded to sanctions by the EU and other countries following a poison attack on former double agent Sergej Skripal in Great Britain with similar counter-sanctions in 2018.
Meanwhile, the attack on Navalny continues to cause waves: Navalny said on Monday that an employee of the Russian domestic intelligence service, FSB, whom he had contacted under a false name, had admitted that he was involved in the poison attack.
The opposition leader published a recording of a phone call on December 14 in which he posed as an assistant to the head of the Russian Security Council in order to gain the man’s trust.
The FSB described the phone call as a fake and a “planned provocation” to discredit it. An investigation is reportedly being launched.
Russia Says it is the Victim of a Geopolitical Hit Job
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said that confidence in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had fallen further because it was again “hostage” to those who used them for geopolitical interests.
In October, the OPCW had detected the poisoning of Navalny with a neurotoxin from the Novitschok group, and thus confirmed the results of laboratories in Germany, France, and Sweden.
Navalny collapsed on a domestic flight in Siberia in August. In the now published phone call, the alleged FSB man said that the poison was attached to the inside of Nawalny’s underpants. The 44-year-old opposition member probably only survived because the flight did not last long enough, and paramedics quickly took care of him.
Several media outlets published research in the past week that alleged that at least eight Russian intelligence agents had attacked Navalny. Only last week, President Vladimir Putin spoke of his sharpest critic but ruled out poisoning via Russian intelligence officials. Navalny has repeatedly referred to the Kremlin chief as the mastermind behind the attempted murder.