PARIS (Reuters) – The European Union is likely to impose travel bans and asset freezes on allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, possibly as soon as this month, after France and Germany signaled their willingness to move ahead, three diplomats said.
The sanctions, in response to the jailing of Putin’s main domestic critic Alexei Navalny, could be the first to be imposed under a new framework enacted in December, which allows the EU to take measures against human rights violators worldwide.
But Berlin and Paris are still likely to withhold support for tougher steps sought by some European allies, such as halting the huge Nord Stream II gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
Pressure for sanctions has grown since Moscow infuriated European countries last week by expelling German, Polish and Swedish diplomats without telling the EU’s foreign policy chief, who was in Moscow for a visit. Paris and Berlin now say there must be a response.
Poland, Baltic countries, the Czech Republic and Romania had already been pushing for sanctions, and the agreement of the EU’s two most powerful countries means other EU states are unlikely to block it. The decision could be taken when EU foreign ministers hold their next meeting on Feb. 22.