The European Union has agreed to impose sanctions against six people and one entity over the poisoning of Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny with a Soviet-style chemical agent in August, diplomats have been quoted as saying.
Western news agencies quoted unidentified diplomats as saying the agreement came at a meeting of EU ambassadors in Brussels on October 14, two days after the bloc's foreign ministers backed a proposal to impose punishing measures on Russian individuals believed to be responsible for the poisoning that nearly took Navalny's life, as well as an entity involved in the program that has produced a group of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok.
The asset freezes and travel bans could be implemented within days, according to dpa, which quoted EU sources as saying Russia's security services were among the targeted individuals.
The agency said the entity in question was the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, which was responsible for developing the Novichok nerve agents during the Soviet era, the sources said.
Paris and Berlin have pushed for punitive measures after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on October 6 confirmed the findings of specialized laboratories in Germany, France, and Sweden that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group.
Germany and France accused Russia of failing to fully investigate the circumstances of Navalny's poisoning and holding anyone to account.
In August, the United States blacklisted the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology and two other Russian scientific facilities over the near-fatal poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
Novichok was identified by British authorities as the toxin used in the 2018 incident in the English city of Salisbury.
Navalny, a fierce critic of Vladimir Putin and prominent anti-corruption campaigner, has blamed the poisoning on the Russian president. He was released from a Berlin hospital on September 22 after spending 32 days in the clinic.
The Russian authorities have firmly denied allegations of involvement, resisted international pressure to launch a criminal investigation, and accused Western leaders of launching a disinformation campaign over Navalny's illness.
"The Germans aren't going to present any facts in disregard of every international legal obligation. We will respond symmetrically [to sanctions], consistent with diplomatic practice," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russian radio stations on October 14.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that Russia "isn't ready to encounter the attitude we're coming up against following from the incident with the Berlin patient."