Liimets: Unified sanctions against Russia more effect than Estonia's alone

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonia should discuss possible sanctions against Russia with its European allies rather than act alone, Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets (Center) said, after opposition leader Alexei Navalny was handed a 3.5 year prison sentence on Tuesday.

Liimets said Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania had written to the OSCE and Council of Europe about the verdict on Tuesday and the Estonian Ambassador in Brussels has also raised the subject of new sanctions.

"We will certainly continue to bring this issue to the attention of international organizations, thereby putting pressure on Russia. We will certainly raise the issue again with the European Union's partners so that we can do more to influence Russia to reconsider the decisions which have been made," Liimets told ERR on Tuesday evening.

Liimets said the possible next steps have already been discussed in Estonia, but creating sanctions alone would not be effective.

"I think it will be better if there are unified European Union sanctions. Financial sanctions are the most effective, and they cannot be imposed by Estonia alone," the foreign minister said.

Earlier this week, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) called for the Baltic counties to create sanctions by themselves and set an example to Europe.

Chairman candidate for the Riigikogu's foreign affairs committee Marko Mikhleson (Reform) also told ERR Estonia should work with its Western partners to tighten sanctions on Russia.

"We must also work at the diplomatic level in Europe and with the Americans so that the sanctions, which should be tightened today, will actually influence Russia to change its policy," Mihkelson said.

Mihkelson said the decision to jail Navalny was personal revenge on by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said he has little hope for the upcoming visit of the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs Joseph Borrell's trip to Moscow as the EU and Russia's views are too different.

Liimets said Estonia has asked Borrell to request a meeting with Navalny.

Navalny was given a 3.5-year sentence for violating the conditions of a suspended sentence for embezzlement.

He has already served a year under house arrest which will be deducted from the total, the BBC reported.

He has been in detention since returning to Russia at the end of January after receiving treatment in Germany for a near-fatal nerve agent attack last August.

Prime minister: 'Navalny's sentencing and imprisonment is cynical'

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

High profile figures in Estonia condemned the prison sentence handed to Alexei Navalny by a Russian court on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) wrote on Twitter the move was: "cynical and has nothing to do with the rule of law".

Foreign minister Eva-Maria Liimets asked Russia about the rule of law. 

Chairman candidate for the Riigikogu's Foreign Affairs Committee Mihkelson (Reform) used the "free Navalny" hashtag and posted an illustration of the opposition leader in court.

Latvia and Lithuania also condemned the outcome of the trial.

Lithuania's foreign minister Gabrielius Landsbergis called the sentencing "despicable" and said the country will create sanctions if the EU does not.

Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edgars Rinkevics said the decision to jail Navalny is "appalling cynicism and complete disregard of rule of law and international obligations".

Ministry: Estonia did not have a representative at Navalny's trial 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ERR there was no Estonian representative at Navalny's trial on Tuesday, as a common observer was sent from by the European Union due to the coronavirus situation.

The spokesperson said the ministry and the Estonian Embassy in Moscow were monitoring the trial and the events surrounding his detention. 

Chairman of opposition party Isamaa Helir-Valdor Seeder said the government's decision not to send an Estonian diplomatic representative to the trial shows passivity, which Estonia should not afford.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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