Russia announces travel bans against EU officials over Navalny

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russia said yesterday it was hitting several European Union (EU) representatives with tit-for-tat sanctions in response to penalties imposed by the bloc over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The Foreign Ministry said in response to “confrontational” EU actions, it “decided to expand the list of representatives of EU member states and institutions who will be denied entry to the Russian Federation”.

The counter sanctions were announced after Moscow summoned senior diplomats from three EU countries where labs concluded Navalny was poisoned in August with Novichok, a Soviet-designed nerve agent.

German, French and Swedish representatives were called to the Foreign Ministry in “connection with the introduction of EU anti-Russian sanctions” a spokeswoman told AFP.

The European diplomats did not make public statements.

The new sanctions came a day after Navalny said he tricked a Russian agent into admitting the Federal Security Service (FSB) tried to kill him by placing poison inside his underwear.

The FSB on Monday described evidence in Navalny’s claims as “fake” and said he was aided by foreign intelligence services.

Navalny, 44, fell violently ill during a flight from Siberia to Moscow in August and was hospitalised in the city of Omsk before being transported to Berlin by medical aircraft.

In a statement earlier this week, the Russian Foreign Ministry repeated claims that EU countries refused to cooperate with Russia over a probe into the incident.

Moscow repeatedly denied allegations its security services played a role in the incident.