EU: New sanctions on Russia in response to human rights violations, propaganda

The Council of the European Union established on May 27 a new framework for restrictive measures against those responsible for serious human rights violations or abuses, repression of civil society and democratic opposition, and undermining democracy and the rule of law in Russia, a statement by the Council of the EU said.

“The decision to establish this new sanctions’ regime is part of the EU’s response to the accelerating and systematic repression in Russia,” the statement said.

The new regime was proposed by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell after the untimely death of the opposition politician Alexei Navalny in Siberian prison in February 2024.

Furthermore, the new sanctions regime introduces trade restrictions on exporting equipment, which might be used for internal repression, as well as on equipment, technology or software intended primarily for use in information security and the monitoring or interception of telecommunication.

The Council of the EU decided at the same meeting to list one entity and 19 natural persons under the new regime.

It listed the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, which is the central authority managing the Russian prison system, “known for its widespread and systematic abuses against, and ill-treatment of, political prisoners in Russia”.

As a federal agency, FSIN is responsible for the penal colonies where Navalny was held on politically motivated charges and ultimately died on February 16.

The Council of the EU listed several judges, prosecutors and members of the judiciary, who played a key role in the imprisonment and ultimate death of Navalny, as well as the sentencing on politically motivated charges of Oleg Orlov, one of the most respected and longest-serving human rights defender in Russia, one of the leaders of 2022 Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation Memorial Human Rights Defence Center, and artist Alexandra Skochilenko.

Those designated on May 27 are subject to an asset freeze and EU citizens and companies are forbidden from making funds available to them. Natural persons are additionally subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through EU territories.

In a separate statement on May 27, the Council of the EU said that it had decided to impose restrictive measures against two individuals and one entity responsible for conducting propaganda actions targeted at civil society in the EU and its neighbouring countries, gravely distorting and manipulating facts in order to justify and support Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

“The propaganda has repeatedly and consistently targeted European political parties, especially during election periods, as well as targeting civil society, asylum seekers, Russian ethnic minorities, gender minorities, and the functioning of democratic institutions in the EU and its member states.”

In particular, the Council imposed restrictive measures on Voice of Europe, an online media outlet which has engaged in a systematic, international campaign of media manipulation and distortion of facts to destabilise Ukraine, the EU and its member states.

Voice of Europe runs a website – with accounts promoting it on social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Telegram and X – actively spreading disinformation related to Ukraine and promoting pro-Kremlin false narratives about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Additionally, Voice of Europe has been used as a vehicle for funneling of financial resources designated for remuneration of propagandists, and for building a network influencing representatives of political parties in Europe, the Council of the EU said.

Today’s listings also include two persons closely associated with Voice of Europe.

One is Artem Marchevskyi, who played a key role in the acquisition of a media brand Voice of Europe. As a concealed head of Voice of Europe, he has played an instrumental role in disseminating concerted disinformation and biased narratives aimed at undermining credibility and public image of Ukraine and its efforts to defend itself against Russia’s war of aggression.

The other is Viktor Medvedchuk, who has promoted policies and actions intended to erode credibility and legitimacy of the Government of Ukraine.

Medvedchuk has close personal ties to Vladimir Putin and is associated with his regime, and through his associates, including Marchevskyi, he controlled Ukrainian media outlets and used them to disseminate pro-Russian propaganda in Ukraine and beyond.

Altogether, EU restrictive measures in respect of actions undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine now apply to over 2100 individuals and entities altogether.

In its conclusions of March 21 and 22 2024, the European Council reaffirmed the EU’s steadfast support for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders and its inherent right of self-defence against the Russian aggression.

It also called for further steps to weaken Russia’s ability to continue waging its war of aggression, including by strengthening the sanctions.

(Photo: Sébastien Bertrand)

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