Protests abandoned for now, Russian opposition focuses on leveraging Europe against Putin

Moscow — Russia’s international ministry accused Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s allies of treachery on Tuesday for discussing doable sanctions towards Russia with different international locations. The accusation of treason was levelled because the opposition chief’s imprisonment drove an more and more massive wedge between Moscow and its European Union neighbors.

Navalny, 44, was arrested final month instantly upon his return to Russia from Germany, the place he spent 5 months recovering from poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. Final week he was sentenced to 2 years and eight months in jail on prices he is dismissed as politically motivated.

This week two of Navalny’s outstanding allies urged Western envoys throughout a video name to impose sanctions on senior Russian enterprise and political figures, whom they described as members of President Vladimir Putin’s inside circle, as wells as judges and senior safety officers.

“These are certainly not sanctions towards Russia. These are sanctions towards wallets and propagandists, the closest circle and pillars of Vladimir Putin,” Leonid Volkov, an in depth Navalny affiliate who lives in exile exterior Russia however took half within the name, wrote on social media.  

Representatives from Britain, the U.S., Canada and Ukraine had been concerned within the two-hour dialogue convened by Poland, in line with a report by the French information company AFP.

Russian international ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has repeatedly criticized Navalny’s allies as “brokers of affect” and “traitors” performing on behalf of the NATO navy alliance. She claimed that they had obtained directions on find out how to disrupt Russian politics throughout Monday’s video name.

Germany, Poland and Sweden introduced on Monday that senior Russian diplomats can be expelled from these international locations in a tit-for-tat response to the Kremlin’s expulsion of three European diplomats. The EU states made no bones about it being retaliation for Moscow’s determination final week to expel envoys from the three international locations, whom the Kremlin accused of taking part in large protests in assist of Navalny final month. 

The European international locations all denied that their ambassadors in Moscow had joined the protests.

Russia known as the expulsion of its diplomats in response “unfounded.”

The Russian international ministry introduced the European envoys had been being booted out on the identical day that EU international coverage chief Josep Borrell visited Moscow and met his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. Borrell stated he’d discovered of the expulsions through social media. 

Some members of the European Parliament even known as for Borrell’s resignation after the go to, given the embarrassing timing of his handshake with Lavrov as EU envoys had been being ordered to pack their luggage.

On Tuesday, Borrell stated the EU was getting ready to take motion.

“It will likely be for the member states to resolve the following step, however sure this might embrace sanctions, and I’ll put ahead concrete proposals,” he stated. 

EU international ministers are to satisfy later this month to contemplate their response to Navalny’s conviction final week. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated the Biden administration will coordinate with its allies to carry the Kremlin accountable.

Hundreds of individuals have been detained by police at nationwide anti-Putin rallies in current weeks following Navalny’s arrest upon his return to Russia from Germany. Many detainees have complained of harsh remedy by the police in custody.

Final week Navalny’s crew stated that they might put mass-street demonstrations on maintain till the spring, however would proceed to push different international locations to extend strain on Russia’s authorities. 

On Tuesday, Volkov known as on Navalny’s supporters throughout the nation to stage particular person protests on Valentine’s Day, this Sunday, lighting their cell telephones up for quarter-hour exterior their houses. 

He stated the motto of the protest can be, “Love is stronger than concern.”

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