EU Prepares Joint Reaction On the Situation in Russia
EU foreign ministers are to consider how to react following the jailing of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny and mass detentions at demonstrations across the country.
Three Baltic states are calling for sharper EU sanctions on Moscow, but most member states seem minded to wait a little longer before resorting to more restrictive measures ahead of Monday's talks.
Anti-corruption campaigner Navalny returned to Russia on January 18, after months in Germany receiving treatment following an assassination attempt with the nerve agent Novichok. The 44-year-old was sentenced to 30 days of pretrial detention at a snap trial.
But, in light of protests about Navalny's detention in cities throughout Russia at the weekend, change is in the air, according to Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis.
"This is what makes Vladimir Putin so nervous, Landsbergis said on his way into talks with his EU counterparts in Brussels.
"That's why he detained 3,500 people in the streets. That's why he detained Mr Navalny. That's why he detained his wife," he said.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - which all used to be in the Soviet Union with Russia - want the EU to take a tough line on Moscow.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday condemned the treatment of protesters and called for their immediate release.
"Everyone has the right to express their opinion and to go to demonstrations according to the Russian constitution," he said.
Navalny and his team have dismissed the allegations of parole violations as a politically motivated attempt to silence him.
Navalny has blamed the chemical attack on Putin and the FSB intelligence service - charges which the Kremlin denies.
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