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Germany: more sanctions on Russia over Navalny cannot be ruled out

FILE PHOTO: A still image taken from video footage shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, inside a defendant dock during the announcement of a court verdict in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021. Press service of Simonovsky District Court/Handout via REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government said on Wednesday further sanctions against Russia cannot be ruled out after a Moscow court jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and police used force against opposition protesters.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday’s verdict against Navalny was “far from any rule of law standards” and demanded an end to violence against peaceful protesters in Russia.

Asked if Germany was mulling new sanctions against Russia, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told a regular news conference the European Union had already imposed sanctions against Moscow following a nerve agent attack on Navalny.

“Further sanctions are not to be ruled out,” Seibert said, adding that Berlin would discuss further steps with its European partners.

Seibert said Moscow’s handling of the Navalny case violated basic human rights principles which Moscow had signed up to and that Berlin condemned “the systematic use of force” against demonstrators by Russian police.

The EU in December imposed sanctions on six Russians and a state scientific research centre accused of deploying against Navalny a banned nerve agent designed for military use.

Western countries have urged Moscow to immediately free Navalny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the authorities tried to poison Navalny and said Russian agents would have finished the job if they had wanted him dead. He said in December that reports the Russian state had poisoned Navalny were part of a U.S.-backed plot to try to discredit him.

Reporting by Michael Nienaber; additional reporting by Thomas Seythal; editing by Emma Thomasson and Timothy Heritage