German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has rejected additional EU sanctions against Russia over the situation of imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.
Speaking to public broadcaster ARD on April 25, Maas said he had doubts whether fresh sanctions on Russia would improve the Kremlin critic’s situation.
"I think the opposite would be the case," Maas said.
The EU already imposed sanctions on Russia over the poisoning and jailing of Navalny. The bloc also has sanctions on Russia for its forcible annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and its role fueling the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
While all those sanctions will remain in place, Maas said it was important to maintain dialogue with Russia and avoid an escalatory cycle of provocations turning into serious confrontation.
Earlier this week, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the EU would hold President Vladimir Putin and Russian authorities directly responsible if Navalny died in prison amid concerns about his health.
But a day after the French foreign minister’s comments, Navalny announced on April 23 that he was ending a hunger strike he had launched more than three weeks before to protest his medical treatment in prison.
Navalny was arrested in January upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he received life-saving treatment for a poisoning attack in Siberia in August.
He blames the poisoning with a Soviet-style chemical nerve agent on Putin and the Russian security services. The Kremlin has denied any role in the poisoning.
In February, a Moscow court ruled that while in Germany, Navalny had violated the terms of parole from an old embezzlement case that is widely considered to be politically motivated. He is currently serving a 2 1/2-year sentence at a prison outside Moscow.