Addressing MEPs on Tuesday, the head of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, David McAllister said the EU needs to “reassess” its “already strained” relations with Russia, after the country’s authorities arrested opposition leader Alexei Navalny upon his arrival in Moscow from Germany, where he has been convalescing after being poisoned with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent.
A surprise court hearing that took place in a courtroom set up at the police station in Khimki outside Moscow on Monday ruled that he will remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, until February 15.
Echoing the call by the bloc’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, McAllister asked for the immediate release of Navalny as well as of his supporters and journalists unlawfully detained in the country, citing that Moscow’s move is a clear breach of international law and the country’s constitution.
The member of the European People’s Party (EPP) also said during the parliament’s plenary session that further EU sanctions on Russia should be imposed, that will target individuals involved in Navalny’s detention. To this end, the EU could use its relatively recently approved Magnitsky-style law on human rights abusers, McAllister added.
On Monday, the Foreign Ministers of the Baltic states had called for “additional firm diplomatic measures” to push Russian authorities for the release of Kremlin critic, adding that the issue should be discussed during next week’s Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), during which, further restrictive measures could be introduced.
Reacting to the calls, Borrell said during the plenary that the sanctions matter is up to the EU leaders, which will convene for an online summit on December 21.