Russia has banned eight European Union officials from entering the country in retaliation for EU sanctions on Russian citizens.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Věra Jourová, the vice president of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, and David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, were among those barred from entering Russian territory.
Moscow’s decision has drawn strong criticism in the European Union, with European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni denouncing unjustified and useless sanctions, and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt calling on the European Union “to hit the oligarchs” of Vladimir Putin’s entourage.
According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Russian sanctions are a response to the sanctions imposed by the EU on March 2 and 22 against Russian officials, something that Moscow regarded as a “direct attack on the independence of Russian domestic and foreign policy.”
On March 2, the European Union announced its decision to impose sanctions on four Russian officials responsible for serious human rights abuses, mainly in the context of lawsuits against Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, as well as for the systematic repression of the right to assembly in Russia.
The measures included banning Russian officials from entering European territory and freezing their assets, including the head of the Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, and Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov.
EU: The European Union has the right to take action in response to Russia
In a joint statement by the president of the European Commission, the president of the European Council and the president of the European Parliament, the EU condemned Russia’s decision to bar eight European citizens (including the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, the Vice-President of the Commission, Věra Jourová, and six other European officials) from entering Russian territory.
The announcement states that this action is “unacceptable, lacks any legal justification and is entirely groundless.” At the same time, it is mentioned that it directly targets the EU and not just the citizens to whom it is addressed.
Finally, it is stressed that “the EU has the right to take appropriate measures in response to the decision of the Russian authorities.”