EU Mulls Fresh Russia Sanctions After Navalny Protests; Kremlin Summons US Ambassador
After ongoing and nsurprisingly well-attended pro-Navalny rallies across major Russian cities, which the Kremlin has blamed on the United States and the West for having a ‘hidden hand’ in organizing, the European Union is considering fresh sanctions targeting Russian officials.
Press reports in Western media are alleging that Russian authorities have arrested over 3,000 Alexei Navalny supporters from the Saturday demonstrations, which the Kremlin had deemed ‘unauthorized’. The jailed opposition politician is urging that people take to the streets from his jail cell, where he’s serving out a 30 day sentence for probation violation.
In some places, particularly Moscow, there were fierce clashes with riot police who were trying to break them up. Over a dozen cities saw rallies for the jailed Kremlin opposition activist, who only a week prior had flown back to Moscow after recovering in Berlin following an alleged nerve agent poisoning last August. Navalny himself along with German investigators blamed Russian intelligence for orchestrating an assassination attempt on orders from Putin.
Reuters reports on Monday:
Lithuania’s foreign minister, arriving in Brussels for a meeting of the bloc’s 27 top diplomats, said “a change is in the air in Russia” that the bloc must support, especially after Navalny’s detention as he returned to Russia from Germany.
The foreign minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, urged: “The EU needs to send a very clear and decisive message that this is not acceptable.” And German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas demanded an “immediate” release of all protesters rounded up during the pro-Navalny rallies, some of which have now had criminal cases brought against them.
Previously the Kremlin has vowed retaliation for any Navalny-related sanctions, which it’s lately followed through on. Late last year the EU announced sanctions on specific Kremlin intelligence officials said to have been involved in the alleged plot to kill Navalny. In response, Russia imposed travel bans on EU officials from France, Germany and Sweden in particular. France and Germany had led the way in getting the EU punitive measures imposed on Russia.
Meanwhile, also on Monday Russia summoned the US ambassador to Moscow to complain about American ‘interference’ in Russia’s internal affairs. Moscow is livid over the fact that the embassy posted a “demonstration alert” to its website in the day ahead of the Saturday protest. As we detailed, the embassy posted a dozen precise locations and planned-for times of pro-Navalny protests.
Under the pretext of “avoiding ” the planned for today anti-government meetings in Russia , US Embassy published the exact times & locations of the planned meetings, as a guide where actually the riots are expected. https://t.co/rGGw3scRrj
How do they know, where & when, btw? https://t.co/1eMtvPo2hQ
— Elena Evdokimova (@elenaevdokimov7) January 23, 2021
Further, the Biden administration had published a statement suggesting that Navalny and his supporters are US “allies” with whom Washington stands “shoulder-to-shoulder”. Moscow Times reports on the US ambassador’s summoning as follows:
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov informed U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan that Moscow considers the safety alerts to be “direct interference in the internal affairs of our country,” Interfax reported Monday.
A U.S. mission spokeswoman, in response to earlier criticism from the Kremlin, told AFP that U.S. and other countries’ embassies and consulates around the world routinely issue safety messages to their citizens abroad.
Moscow is now said to be additionally investigating “how American social media giants participate in the interference in our internal affairs,” according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement in Interfax.
Over the weekend top EU officials voiced support for the protests, which they called the biggest in years and “historic”:
The @navalny protests in 🇷🇺 today are undoubtedly the largest since the Bolotnaya protests in 2011-2021. Numbers are difficult to compare, but these now seem to be far more spread all over the country. It’s no longer just Moscow. pic.twitter.com/vI1xrogIyo
— Carl Bildt (@carlbildt) January 23, 2021
Russia is alleging that US-based social media platforms promoted “fake” information surrounding the Saturday protests.
Notably, multiple major US media outlets also gave the protests “live” coverage, including The New York Times, despite Navalny previously being a relatively minor political figure inside Russia with little domestic influence.
Wed, 01/27/2021 – 02:45