Lithuania and Latvia urge EU to sanction Russia for Navalny sentencing

Russian law enforcement officers stand guard behind barriers in Palace Square in central Saint Petersburg, Russia February 2, 2021. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

VILNIUS (Reuters) -European Union members Lithuania and Latvia called on the EU to impose sanctions on Russia for sentencing Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to three-and-a-half years in jail on Tuesday, their foreign ministers said.

“The dialogue between the European Union and Russia is now possible only in the language of sanctions,” Lithuania’s Gabrielius Landsbergis told Reuters after the sentencing.

“If the community doesn’t hurry, Lithuania will consider its own national sanctions,” he added.

Edgars Rinkevics, the Latvian foreign minister, tweeted: “EU must impose sanctions, Council of Europe must act as this is breach of European Court of Human Rights ruling.”

He called for the immediate release of Navalny, calling his sentencing “both appalling cynicism and a complete disregard of rule of law and international obligations by Russia”.

Latvia and Lithuania both border on Russia, which dominated both as republics within the old Soviet Union before the Communist colossus broke up in 1991, which restored both nations’ independence and led to their entry into the EU.

A Russian court sentenced Navalny after ruling he had violated the terms of his parole, but said his prison term would be shortened for time he had served earlier under house arrest.

Reporting By Andrius SytasEditing by Mark Heinrich