Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has called on the European Union to target the "bunch of criminals" surrounding President Vladimir Putin with sanctions.
Speaking on November 27 at a video conference with MEPs, the Kremlin critic said Russia's oligarchs had "temporarily seized power” and the 27-nation bloc must develop a new strategy for its relations with Moscow.
Specifically, Navalny called on the EU to scrutinize the European income sources and assets of Russian billionaires such as Roman Abramovich, Alisher Usmanov, and Arkady Rotenberg, all of whom have close links to the Kremlin.
Last month, the EU and Britain imposed asset freezes and travel bans against six senior Russian officials and one entity for the "attempted assassination" of the 44-year-old Navalny with a Soviet-style chemical agent in August.
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 following his medical evacuation from Siberia, where he fell violently ill.
Navalny said that he does not see "much sense" in placing under sanctions Russian officials or “generals” who have no assets in Europe.
"Why do people kill, poison, and fabricate elections? The main answer is money. The sanctions of the European Union should be aimed at them," Navalny said during the discussion with members of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
"As long as Usmanov's yachts are in Barcelona and Monaco, no one in the Kremlin will take sanctions seriously," Navalny said.
He also urged the EU not to recognize the results of the 2021 general elections in Russia if political opponents are barred from running.
"Falsifications and manipulations are inevitable" elements of elections in Russia, he said.
The EU Official Journal on October 15 published the names of the targeted individuals believed to be responsible for the poisoning that nearly took Navalny’s life, as well as the entity involved in the program that has produced a group of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok.
The targeted organization is the State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, which was responsible for developing the Novichok nerve agents during the Soviet era.
Germany and France have accused Russia of failing to fully investigate the circumstances of Navalny’s poisoning and holding anyone to account.
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.
Russian opposition politicians Vladimir Milov, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Ilya Yashin are also taking part in the discussion.