Russia has blacklisted eight officials from European Union countries, barring them from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the bloc.
Russia’s foreign ministry said on Friday those banned included Vera Jourova, vice-president for values and transparency at the executive European Commission; David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament; and Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly.
“The European Union continues to pursue its policy of illegitimate, unilateral restrictive measures against Russian citizens and organisations,” the ministry said in a statement.
It accused the bloc of “openly and deliberately” undermining the independence of Russia’s domestic and foreign policy.
“All our proposals for settling problems between Russia and the EU through a direct professional dialogue have been consistently ignored or rejected,” the ministry added.
Reacting to the news, Sassoli said the move would not stop EU lawmakers or him “from defending human rights, freedom and democracy”.
“Apparently, I’m not welcome at the Kremlin? I had suspected it a bit…,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Threats will not silence us,” Sassoli said.
Apparently, I'm not welcome at the Kremlin? I had suspected it a bit… No sanctions or intimidation will stop the @Europarl_EN or me from defending human rights, freedom, and democracy. Threats will not silence us. As Tolstoy wrote, there is no greatness where there is no truth.
— David Sassoli (@EP_President) April 30, 2021
In a separate joint statement, Sassoli, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council chief Charles Michel said they condemned Russia’s “unacceptable” action in “the strongest possible terms” and said it showed Moscow had chosen a path of confrontation with the bloc.
“The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities’ decision,” they said.
Others banned by Russia
Russia also banned three officials from the Baltic states: Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council; Maris Baltins, director of the Latvian State Language Center; and Ilmar Tomusk, head of Estonia’s Language Inspectorate.
Among those blacklisted were also Jorg Raupach, Berlin’s public prosecutor, and Asa Scott of the Swedish Defence Research Agency.
Scott was among officials who said Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny had been poisoned in Russia last year with a Soviet-era nerve agent.
Navalny recovered from the poisoning in Germany and was detained upon his return to Russia in January. The Kremlin critic was sentenced the following month to two and a half years in prison for parole violations on an earlier embezzlement conviction that he says was politically motivated.
The EU imposed sanctions in March on two Russians accused of persecuting gay and lesbian people in the southern Russian region of Chechnya.
Last month, the bloc also imposed sanctions on four senior Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin.