Russian Opposition Focuses on Leveraging Europe Against Putin

Russia’s foreign ministry accused Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny’s allies of treachery on Tuesday for discussing possible sanctions against Russia with other countries. The accusation of treason was levelled as the opposition leader’s imprisonment drove an increasingly large wedge between Moscow and its European Union neighbors, CBS News informed.

Navalny, 44, was arrested last month immediately upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from poisoning with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok. Last week he was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison on charges he’s dismissed as politically motivated.

This week two of Navalny’s prominent allies urged Western envoys during a video call to impose sanctions on senior Russian business and political figures, whom they described as members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, as wells as judges and senior security officials.

“These are by no means sanctions against Russia. These are sanctions against wallets and propagandists, the closest circle and pillars of Vladimir Putin,” Leonid Volkov, a close Navalny associate who lives in exile outside Russia but took part in the call, wrote on social media.  

Representatives from Britain, the U.S., Canada and Ukraine were involved in the two-hour discussion convened by Poland, according to a report by the French news agency AFP.

Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has repeatedly criticized Navalny’s allies as “agents of influence” and “traitors” acting on behalf of the NATO military alliance. She claimed they had received instructions on how to disrupt Russian politics during Monday’s video call.

Germany, Poland and Sweden announced on Monday that senior Russian diplomats would be expelled from those countries in a tit-for-tat response to the Kremlin’s expulsion of three European diplomats. The EU states made no bones about it being retaliation for Moscow’s decision last week to expel envoys from the three countries, whom the Kremlin accused of participating in huge protests in support of Navalny last month.