EU slaps sanctions on 4 Russia officials over Navalny arrest

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FILE – In this Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 file photo, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as he stands behind a grass of the cage in the Babuskinsky District Court in Moscow, Russia. Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was transported to a prison 100km away from Moscow. Navalny was taken to a prison in Pokrov city after Moscow city court rejected appeal against his prison sentence on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials over the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most high-profile political foe.

The 27-nation bloc imposed bans on travel and froze the assets in Europe of Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Igor Krasnov, the prosecuto general, Viktor Zolotov, head of the National Guard, and Alexander Kalashnikov, head of the Federal Prison Service.

EU headquarters said the four were listed “over their roles in the arbitrary arrest, prosecution and sentencing of Alexei Navalny, as well as the repression of peaceful protests in connection with his unlawful treatment.”

Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption investigator, was arrested in Moscow in January upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.

In February, a court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated.

The European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that it’s unlawful.

Navalny’s arrest and imprisonment have fueled a huge wave of protests across Russia. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.

The sanctions were the first used by the EU under a new system for imposing restrictions on people and organizations deemed responsible for human rights abuses.

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