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Russia imposes entry bans on eight officials from EU states

Top European Union officials said they "condemn in the strongest possible terms" Russia's decision.
HANDOUT - 22 April 2021, Russia, Moscow: Russian President Vladimir Putin participates in the international climate summit via video. The meeting is intended to underline the urgency and economic benefits of stronger climate protection measures on the way to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow next November. Around 40 international leaders are planning to attend the summit. Photo: -/Kremlin /dpa - ATTENTION: editorial use only and only if the credit mentioned above is referenced in full
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo: Kremlin/dpa/file photo.

Russia has placed entry bans on eight officials from EU states, including European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova, Russia's Foreign Ministry says.

Berlin's chief state prosecutor, Joerg Raupach, is also on the blacklist, a tit-for-tat response to the European Union's decision in March to slap entry bans on high-ranking Russian officials for their role in the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Russia once again criticized Brussels' punitive measures and accused it of fomenting anti-Russian hysteria.

"The EU continues the policy of illegitimate unilateral sanctions against Russian citizens and organizations," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the TASS news agency.

"Only in March 2021, six Russians were subjected to unlawful EU restrictions. This practice contradicts the UN charter and the basic norms of international law. It is accompanied by anti-Russian hysteria, deliberately spread by the Western media," it said.

Jourova, the commission's vice president for values and transparency, has in the past been critical of disinformation and fake news coming out of Russia, while Sassoli has spoken on several occasions about Navalny's plight.

Sassoli did not seem impressed by the sanctions. "Apparently, I'm not welcome at the Kremlin? I had suspected it a bit...," he wrote on Twitter.

"No sanctions or intimidation will stop the [EU Parliament] or me from defending human rights, freedom, and democracy. Threats will not silence us. As Tolstoy wrote, there is no greatness where there is no truth," he added.

Navalny's case is the latest flashpoint in Russia's relations with Western nations.

Belarus, Ukraine, Navalny

The ongoing crises in Belarus and Ukraine as well as alleged Russian meddling in foreign elections have all contributed to a rapid deterioration in the last few years.

The EU and United States have taken a flurry of measures against Moscow recently, from the expulsion of diplomats and entry bans to economic sanctions.

After surviving a Novichok nerve agent attack and receiving treatment in Germany, Navalny returned to Russia in mid-January and was immediately arrested. He blames the Russian state for the attack.

He has since been sentenced to a prison term on charges of violating parole for a 2014 fraud conviction, which itself was found to be arbitrary by the European Court of Human Rights.

List of people banned

The other people handed bans by Russia on Friday are: Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council; Maris Baltins, director of the Latvian State Language Center; Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Asa Scott, head of the CBRN Protection and Security Division at the Swedish Defense Research Agency; and Ilmar Tomusk, director general of the Language Inspectorate, Estonia.

Top European Union officials said they "condemn in the strongest possible terms" Russia's decision on the ban.

"This action is unacceptable, lacks any legal justification and is entirely groundless. It targets the European Union directly, not only the individuals concerned," a joint statement from by the presidents of the European Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament says.

"The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities' decision," the statement says.

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