Russian opposition leader Navalny poisoned: Spokeswoman
Member of the EU Parliament – about how the poisoning of Alexei Navalny is perceived in the European Union and about red lines in relations with Russia
On November 27, the Committee on International Affairs of the European Union Parliament held hearings with the participation of four Russian oppositionists – the founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation Alexei Navalny, his associate Vladimir Milov, the chairman of the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and the Moscow municipal deputy Ilya Yashin. The hearings were held via videoconference.
During the hearings, Alexei Navalny, who is in Germany after being poisoned with a chemical warfare poison in Russia in August this year, proposed to apply financial sanctions against Russian oligarchs:
“While the most expensive yachts of Mr. Usmanov are in the port of Barcelona or Monaco, no one in Russia or even in the Kremlin will take European sanctions seriously. They think they are playing with the European Union because it is afraid to impose real sanctions on real money. This is what we need to focus on. And, believe me, this type of sanctions will be welcomed by 99% of the Russian population. This kind of sanctions will be very popular in Russia. Just bring them in against the Russian oligarchs. Tell Messrs. Usmanov, Abramovich, Rotenberg, and so on: “Gentlemen, you are acting against the interests of the Russian people, you are acting against Europe, you keep saying that Europe is bad, so take your yachts and put them somewhere in beautiful ports of the Republic of Belarus “”.
Navalny urged MEPs to take measures that would offend those who are directly connected with the Kremlin, but not the population of Russia as a whole: “At the heart of [your] new campaign should be a very clear division between two things: the Russian people, which should be taken and to which the European Union should, in my opinion, be treated with warmth, and the Russian state, which should be treated as a group of criminals that temporarily took power “.
The Russian service of the Voice of America asked Sergei Lagodinsky, a German MP from Germany, a member of the Alliance 90 / Greens faction, who took part in the hearings with the participation of Russian oppositionists whether the European authorities would be able to implement such an approach..
Danila Galperovich: In the statements of Alexei Navalny and his Russian colleagues, the thought is clearly expressed: Western sanctions in their current form are not very effective, the lessons of previous sanctions have not been studied, and it is not the GRUs and officials that need to be punished, but the oligarchs. How do you share this approach, and how feasible it is?
Sergey Lagodinsky: This approach, which is proposed by them, and which we are considering, must nevertheless somehow intersect with the legislative realities of the European Union. There are certain sanctions regimes in the European Union and they must be legal according to European rules. Why? – Because very often I talk with European bureaucrats, and they say: “We would have introduced those sanctions or these, but these sanctions will bring us later to the European Court, and then we will have to remove them again.” Therefore, here it is necessary to consider, on the one hand, from the legislative point of view, everything is very careful, and on the other hand, from the point of view of what we want to achieve with these sanctions. We do not want to punish Russian society with these sanctions. These sanctions should punish specific individuals or firms that are directly involved in the theft of Russian wealth. Therefore, the question is difficult.
I believe that the sanctions that were adopted after the poisoning of Navalny and after the outrages that we had in Libya, and Mr. Prigozhin was sanctioned for precisely this, were correct and timely. What to do next? It seems to me that we need to look towards anti-corruption legislation. Not everything is done by sanctions, a lot can be done, for example, by somehow tightening or looking more precisely at law enforcement and the adoption of legal norms against corruption or money laundering.
D.G .: Moscow has gone into deep defense over the poisoning of Navalny, in the statements of the Russian Foreign Ministry on this matter – a mixture of offenses and threats. How clear is the picture of this assassination attempt for you and your colleagues in the European Parliament??
S.L .: The picture is clear politically. After all, we are not only talking about the direct responsibility of a criminal group or a certain person. It’s about political responsibility. And it seems to me that the political responsibility is understandable here – it is the political responsibility of the Russian authorities. Since such substances are not sold in bazaars and supermarkets, this is the responsibility of the powers that be. And the reaction was appropriate. Russia as a state is responsible for not using these funds, which were in its chemical bins. Therefore, the picture politically is absolutely clear, the picture in terms of chemical expertise is absolutely clear – how many laboratories have already confirmed this! – and the picture in terms of highlighting the course of action is also clear. Because it was absolutely clear where the poisoning occurred: it did not happen, naturally, in some small plane on the way to Germany..
D.G .: Why do you think it was necessary for Putin, or the Kremlin, or people next to the Kremlin? This is a very open action, defiant, literally screaming – “here we have chemical weapons that are prohibited, so we used it against a person for obvious political reasons.” What for?
S.L .: And not only that, but they also built the next president of Russia with their own hands, at least a potential one: after all, this, of course, elevated Navalny to the rank of a hero, from a leading oppositionist he became a hero. It can be considered a miscalculation, it can be considered a bungler – I would not be surprised. It is not my task and not my role to build chains of arguments, but here it is very difficult to construct a hypothetical course of events that would not involve the Russian government, actively or passively, in the role of a responsible actor. This is what we are talking about. Because the underlying reason for the poisoning – this is not the only poisoning – has been building up over the years. Moreover, not only various services were involved in this background, state and near-state media are also involved in this background. Such dehumanization of opposition leaders, which we see in the pro-government Russian media, builds up this background, this opportunity to throw green paint in someone’s eyes, poison them there, beat them here, or shoot someone in the head or in the back. This is the law of political responsibility. It is much more than criminal responsibility..
D.G .: Do you foresee any practical continuation of today’s discussion in the European Parliament after what you heard from Navalny his point of view and wishes? What will happen next?
S.L .: Although it was just one of the hearings of one of the committees of the European Parliament, it was an important hearing from my point of view. Still, for the first time we had the opportunity to hear from the direct hero of tragic events his vision of the situation. The other three witnesses and the participant are also very important. I think this has confirmed many of the assumptions of the European deputies. I believe that there will be a discussion about updating or changing the strategy towards Moscow, towards Russia by the European Union. However, I believe that the strategy, the very five points that the European Union has been guided by so far – there is a focus on other former Soviet Union countries, support for civil society, the Minsk agreements and so on – these five cornerstones have not disappeared. … They continue, in principle, to be a good basis for a strategy in relation to the Russian state..
I think that the issue will be more at the level of the EU member states, for example, Germany. What are we going to do in relation to Nord Stream 2? Indeed, one or two weeks after the poisoning, the German government commented rather harshly on these topics, and suddenly everything cooled down. And this is just one of the questions, because we have to think about it strategically. We, in principle, need to decide what criteria we put forward for large economic and joint business projects between the European Union and Russia. After all, both sides need to know which Nord Stream 3 or Nord Stream 4 will be held in the European Union next time, and which will not, what are the expectations and requirements on both sides for the next similar projects. Look at the Rosatom nuclear power plant project in Hungary – a lot of money is used there too. We need to have some kind of toolkit. We are not going to terminate relations with the Russian Federation in general, but we need to determine: where are our “red lines”, what are our criteria for this cooperation, joint cooperation …
Reporter for the Russian Voice of America Service in Moscow. Collaborates with Voice of America since 2012. For a long time he worked as a correspondent and host of programs for the BBC Russian Service and Radio Liberty. Specialization – international relations, politics and legislation, human rights.
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