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MEPs Urge EU Magnitsky Act To Tackle Kremlin's 'Antidemocratic' Activities

Russian anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009. (file photo)

BRUSSELS -- Dozens of lawmakers in the European Parliament have called on the European Union to adopt legislation that would punish Russian businessmen for money-laundering activities within the bloc that they said are used to back the Kremlin’s "antidemocratic" moves.

The lawmakers made the call in a letter dated April 26 and addressed to European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini, and the heads of states and governments of the 28 EU member states.

So far, 44 lawmakers have signed the letter, which was seen by RFE/RL.

They called for an EU version of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, originally introduced in 2012 to target Russians deemed by Washington to be complicit in human rights abuses.

EU member states Estonia, Lithuania, and Britain have since adopted similar legislation named after Russian anticorruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Moscow prison in 2009.

The EU lawmakers said a European Union version of the U.S. law should target "Russian tycoons and oligarchs, who shelter and launder illicit funds in Member States helping [President Vladimir] Putin to enable his antidemocratic activities."

They cited "election meddling, cyberattacks, fake news, and propaganda campaigns."

The lawmakers said that "strong measures" should be taken to fight against "illegal money laundering activities and schemes" in EU member states that enable "Russian tycoons and oligarchs to attack our European democracies from within."

The letter also called on the European Union to start consultations both internally and with the United States aimed at "synchronising the lists of additional EU restrictive measures" with those recently adopted by the United States under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

The CAATSA was overwhelmingly approved by Congress and reluctantly signed into law by President Donald Trump last August.

It was adopted in response to a U.S. intelligence community finding that Putin had ordered a clandestine campaign to influence the U.S. presidential election to benefit Trump.

The European Union has so far sanctioned 150 separatists and Russian officials, as well as 38 entities for Russia's aggression in Ukraine.

These measures have been prolonged every six months since 2014, as has the bloc's economic sanctions that targets the Russian banking and energy sector.

EU officials familiar with the matter who can't speak on the record told RFE/RL that the economic sanctions are set to be prolonged again when EU leaders meet in Brussels in June.

They said the restrictive measures could be extended by 12 months instead of the customary six.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.