Friday

16th Apr 2021

MEPs pave way for EU-Russia sanctions dispute

  • Passport control at Warsaw airport: The Polish foreign minister has said he would 'consider' supporting the ban (Photo: afagen)

Emboldened by a new EU parliament resolution, Bill Browder, the CEO of US firm Hermitage Capital, has told EUobserver that he will use Schengen Zone rules to push for an EU-wide travel ban on 60 Russian officials accused of complicity in the murder of one of his employees.

"In the Schengen Zone it only requires one country to impose travel sanctions on the Russian torturers and all the Schengen countries have to follow," he told this website by phone from London on Thursday (16 December). "The next step will be to approach individual member states with hard evidence on the people who murdered and tortured Sergey Magnitsky in order to implement this resolution."

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We have a list of names and documents with peoples' signatures on them denying Sergey Magnitsky the medical treatment that he needed. Documents with signatures on his false arrest. Documents with signatures denying him any contacts with his family for 12 months. We'll go one by one through all the member states."

Mr Magnitsky, a 37-year-old father-of-two and a lawyer who worked for Mr Browder's company, died in a Russian jail in 2009 after investigating an alleged €175 million embezzlement scam by Russian police.

Mr Browder's remarks come after MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday endorsed a resolution calling for the EU "to consider imposing an EU entry ban for Russian officials involved in this case and [encouraging] EU law enforcement agencies to co-operate in freezing bank accounts and other assets of these Russian officials in all EU member states."

Mr Browder pointed out that Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski in a letter to left-wing Polish MP Ryszard Kalisz in September said Warsaw would consider backing a visa ban if "international institutions [establish] a list of persons, who were involved in the death."

The Hermitage Capital list of 60 names includes: Alexei Anichin, the head of the Investigative Committee in the Russian interior ministry; Viktor Voronin, the chief of the FSB's Economic Espionage cell; Viktor Grin, the Deputy General Prosecutor; Dmitriy Komnov, head of pre-trial detention at the Butyrka prison; Larisa Litvinova, chief of medical care at the jail; and 11 judges.

Mr Browder added: "It is surprising that the Russian government and the Russian parliament have so aggressively defended known torturers and murderers, which translates this crime from an individual crime of corrupt officials into a state-sponsored crime."

European Commission spokesman Michele Cercone confirmed that under the Schengen Border Code: "If someone is put on the list by a state of the Schengen Area, then other countries cannot give visas to the person that is in the system ... That's how it works."

For their parts, Finnish green MEP Heidi Hautala and Dutch liberal deputy Marietje Schaake, the authors of the parliament's Magnitsky resolution, which was inserted into a broader report on EU human rights policy, said in an emailed statement: "It is our wish that none of these sanctions will ever have to be put in place. Instead, we hope to receive the news without delay that effective investigations ... have finally commenced."

A spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said: "We share the concern over the case and that is why the issue was raised at the EU-Russia summit last week. We are following closely the steps [Russian] President Medvedev has taken to address this issue."

The Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, who was in Strasbourg on Thursday, could not immediately be contacted for a comment. But the Russian Duma earlier warned that if the Hautala-Schaake proposal got through: "Relations between the Russian Federation and the European Union will be seriously damaged."

Frontex chief: 'about time' MEPs probe his agency

Some 14 MEPs have created a group to probe allegations of rights abuse by the EU's border agency Frontex. Its head, Fabrice Leggeri, welcomed its creation and said it "is about time".

Romania denies forcing migrant-boat back to Turkish waters

Romania's ministry of internal affairs wrote to Frontex claiming it did not engage in any illegal pushbacks of people on rubber boats into Turkish territorial waters. The country says it followed EU engagement rules and Greek orders.

LGBTI fears over new Polish member at EU institution

A letter sent to the European Economic and Social Committee by a group of cross-party MEPs fighting for LGBTi rights expresses fears that a recently-appointed Polish member may try to undermine those rights.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us