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Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (file photo)

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg expects the European Union to adopt new sanctions against Russia over the case of opposition politician Alexei Navalny.

A step likely could be taken when European foreign ministers meet on February 22, he said in an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"We will discuss at the Foreign Affairs Council appropriate reactions to the case of Navalny," Schallenberg said.

This would likely include targeted measures against individuals and organizations under the bloc's newly created sanctions instrument to punish human rights violators.

Schallenberg said he expects "a broad majority of support" for sanctions among the EU's 27 members, but added the sanctions "have to be politically smart and legally watertight."

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Twitter on February 21 that “EU actions” will be discussed at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on February 22.

Borrell said the courts in Russia continue to ignore a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) asking the Russian government to free him.

A Moscow court on February 20 upheld Navalny’s prison sentence relating to his embezzlement conviction, but reduced the sentence by about 50 days considering time served. Later in the day, Navalny was fined a large sum on charges of insulting a World War II veteran.

Both trials were decried as politically motivated.

Navalny was arrested last month on his return from Germany where he was recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he and supporters say was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters
Georgian journalist Giorgi Gabunia (file photo)

TBILISI -- A court in Georgia has sentenced a Russian citizen to four years in prison for involvement in an alleged plot to kill a Georgian journalist.

The Tbilisi City Court on February 20 found Magomed Gutsiyev, a native of Russia's North Caucasus region, guilty of illegal border-crossing, forgery, and the illegal surveillance of journalist Giorgi Gabunia.

Gutsiyev was arrested by Georgian authorities in June with documents identifying him as Vasambek Bokov.

Georgia's Service for State Security (SUS) said at the time that they had arrested a Russian citizen, identified as V.B., who they suspected of planning to kill Gabunia.

In July 2019, Gabunia crudely insulted Russian President Vladimir Putin live on air amid worsening ties between Georgia and Russia.

The reporter called Putin a "stinking occupier" and used a string of obscenities to curse the Russian president, as well as Putin's mother and father -- and vowed to defecate on Putin's grave.

Gabunia's controversial comments were condemned by Russian and Georgian authorities.

The Moscow-backed leader of Russia's North Caucasus region of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly vowed to "punish" Gabunia at the time.

In recent years, several Kadyrov critics have been killed outside Russia, and many believe that either Kadyrov himself or Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) were behind the apparent assassinations.

Rights groups say Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya since 2007, uses repressive measures and has created a climate of impunity for security forces in the volatile region.

They allege Kadyrov is ultimately responsible for the violence and intimidation of political opponents by Chechen authorities, including kidnappings, forced disappearances, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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