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EU foreign ministers adopt new Russia sanctions – DW – 05/27/2024

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Foreign ministers from the 27 EU member states meeting in Brussels on Monday adopted a new system of sanctions to punish serious human rights violations in Russia.

The punitive sanctions, which are separate from the economic sanctions already imposed on Russia for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, target individuals and organizations responsible for the repression of Russia’s political opposition. They include asset freezes and entry bans.

The system was formulated after the death of prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who died under unclear circumstances in a Siberian penal colony in February.

Navalny’s death has been attributed by many to his harsh treatment at the hands of Russian authorities.

“Alexei Navalny’s shocking death was another sign of the accelerating and systematic repression by the Kremlin regime. We will spare no efforts to hold the Russian political leadership and authorities to account,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement announcing the new system.

What and who do the sanctions affect?

The sanction target Russian judges, prosecutors and members of the judiciary. Their assets in the European Union, should they have any, are frozen and European companies are forbidden from making funds available to them. 

The 19 individuals affected also cannot enter or transit through the EU.

The new measure also restrict the potential export of equipment which might be used for internal repression, and equipment, technology or software for use in information security or the monitoring or interception of telecommunication, the EU foreign ministers said.

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Hungary as stumbling block

At the meeting, ministers also discussed ways the EU can support Ukraine as it defends itself against the Russian aggression.

Last Tuesday, EU finance ministers gave final approval to use the profits from Russian assets frozen in the bloc to buy military aid for Kyiv.

The foreign ministers were also expected to discuss further economic sanctions on Russia in addition to the 13 rounds it has already imposed. 

Ahead of the meeting, however, Lithuania slammed Hungary for blocking many proposed EU measures against Russia.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis  said the bloc had to find a way to circumvent Budapest’s veto.

“Almost all of our discussions and needed solutions and decisions by [the] EU are being blocked by just one country. So we have to start seeing this as a systematic approach towards any efforts by [the] EU to have any meaningful role in foreign affairs,” he said.

Landsbergis said Hungary was blocking decisions on EU military aid to Ukraine, the start of EU membership talks for Kyiv, and on Georgia and Armenia. Diplomats say Hungary’s stance is often aligned with Russia’s foreign policy interests.

Gaza war also in focus

 Another topic for discussion will be the tense situation in the Middle East and the war in Gaza.

The ministers aim to agree in principle on Monday to press ahead with an EU border mission at Rafah, a city in the southern Gaza Strip, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

As part of its retaliatory offensive in Gaza, Israeli forces have been assaulting the city, which was providing shelter to many Palestinians who have fled fighting in other parts of the enclave.

The UN’s top court, the International Court of Justice, on Friday ordered Israel to stop the offensive,  an order with which Israel has so far not complied.

Israel launched its offensive in Gaza in response to October 7 raids in southern Israel by the militant Islamist group Hamas in which some 1,200 Israelis died.

The EU foreign ministers will hold informal talks with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, as well as the secretary-general of the League of Arab States.

tj/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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