21st Sep 2023


EU to blacklist nine Russians over jailing of dissident

  • Vladimir Kara-Murza (l) at the European Parliament in Brussels in 2017 (Photo:
Listen to article

EU countries are preparing to blacklist nine Russians for jailing dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, if Hungary backs down.

The draft list names Russian deputy justice minister Oleg Sviridenko, four Russian judges, a notorious prison chief, and three officials.

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

  • Russian anti-corruption witness Sergei Magnitsky was killed in prison in 2009 (Photo: Hermitage Capital)

Sviridenko had "direct responsibility" for enforcing a Kremlin "foreign agents" list, which included Kara-Murza, said the EU document, dated 24 May and seen by EUobserver.

The Foreign Agents project was "at the centre of a wave of repressive laws cracking down on [hundreds of] independent civil society, media as well as dissenting individuals," the EU said.

This helped send Kara-Murza to a penal colony for 25 years in April — a de facto death sentence for the disabled Kremlin critic.

And two of the Russians on the draft EU blacklist were already involved in killing another high-profile Russian activist 15 years ago — Sergei Magnitsky.

Sergei Podoprigorov, one of Kara-Murza's judges, previously issued rulings against Magnitsky, who "was later persecuted and died in Russian prison," the draft EU sanctions said.

Dmitry Komon is currently head of the 'Vodnik' prison where Kara-Murza was being held, the EU said.

But Komon used to be "warden of 'Butyrka' pre-trial detention centre at a time when unbearable conditions led to the death of anti-corruption activist Sergei Magnitsky," the EU document added.

The 27 EU ambassadors will discuss the list in Brussels on Wednesday (31 May), diplomats said.

If approved, they will join an EU register of over 40 of the world's worst abusers, called a Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, which also covers Chinese officials and African warlords.

The Kara-Murza listings were due to get the green light a week ago, but Hungary issued a last-minute veto on the Russian deputy minister.

Its blockade was seen as putting extra pressure on the EU to force Ukraine to stop badmouthing a Hungarian bank.

It has also vetoed an 11th round of Russia sanctions and Ukraine arms deals in protest over the bank.

But its Kara-Murza gambit saw it hammered on moral as well as political grounds.

"The Hungarian government has made its affection for the Putin regime clear, but it is unacceptable when that position hijacks well thought out and moral EU policy," said 40 MEPs in a letter on 24 May, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Hungarian diplomats like to keep Brussels-based EU colleagues and media in the dark.

When asked if Budapest was likely to cave on Kara-Murza on Wednesday, a non-Hungarian EU diplomat following the process said: "We'll see".

But the MEPs, who wrote to all 26 EU foreign ministers except Hungary's in a symbolic touch, had an alternative solution if it didn't.

"We call on the EU member states who already have Magnitsky Acts — the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — to use their existing legislation to sanction Vladimir Kara-Murza's Russian persecutors, since the EU legislation does not work," they said.

"We also call on other EU member sates to pass their own domestic Magnitsky Acts," they said.

Magnitsky's legacy

The "EU Magnitsky Act" is an informal name in Brussels for the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.

But several EU countries have parallel legislation at national level.

So called to honour the Russian late activist Magnitsky, the acts impose asset-freezes and visa-bans on those listed.

Bill Browder — a British financier and human-rights campaigner, who was Magnitsky's former employer — said none of the nine Russians are likely to be banking or holidaying in the EU anyway, even if their relatives might be.

But the blacklist still sends a "strong message", he told EUobserver on Tuesday.

"The EU is saying Kara-Murza is so important to us that we are going after his persecutors," he said.

"It also says to the Russians: 'He's a valuable hostage, don't kill him'," Browder added.

EU’s €500m gender violence plan falls short, say auditors

The 'Spotlight Initiative' was launched in 2017 with a budget of €500 million to end all forms of violence or harmful practices against women and girls in partner countries, but so far it has had "little impact", say EU auditors.

Latest News

  1. Europe must Trump-proof its Ukraine arms supplies
  2. Antifascism and fascism are opposites, whatever elites say
  3. MEPs back Germany's Buch to lead ECB supervisory arm
  4. Russia to blame for Azerbaijan attack, EU says
  5. Fresh dispute may delay EU-wide migration reforms
  6. MEPs call for extra €10bn to boost EU's long-term budget
  7. No changes to Turkey deal on Nato, Sweden says
  8. Socialist MEP defends own side jobs after voting to ban others

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators, industry & healthcare experts at the 24th IMDRF session, September 25-26, Berlin. Register by 20 Sept to join in person or online.
  2. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  3. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA
  4. International Medical Devices Regulators Forum (IMDRF)Join regulators & industry experts at the 24th IMDRF session- Berlin September 25-26. Register early for discounted hotel rates
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal interest in the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations – here are the speakers for the launch
  6. Nordic Council of Ministers20 June: Launch of the new Nordic Nutrition Recommendations

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  2. ICLEISeven actionable measures to make food procurement in Europe more sustainable
  3. World BankWorld Bank Report Highlights Role of Human Development for a Successful Green Transition in Europe
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic summit to step up the fight against food loss and waste
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThink-tank: Strengthen co-operation around tech giants’ influence in the Nordics
  6. EFBWWEFBWW calls for the EC to stop exploitation in subcontracting chains

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us