Sanctions, assets freezing: Russian oppositionist asks West to use every bit of leverage over Putin

In his NYT article opposition politician Alexey Navalny says that the only way to have an impact on Vladimir Putin is freezing assets, seizing property of high-powered and affluent Russians, banning them from entering the EU and the USA.

Mr Navalny states that although the European Union has already imposed sanctions on 21 officials, and the United States on seven, most of these government figures cannot be considered influential as they do not have major assets outside Russia and are irrelevant to Mr Putin; sanctioning them will not change Russia’s policy.

In his opinion, Western nations could deliver a serious blow to the luxurious lifestyles enjoyed by the Kremlin’s cronies who shuttle between Russia and the West, which means freezing the oligarchs’ financial assets and seizing their property.

‘Such sanctions should primarily target Mr Putin’s inner circle, the Kremlin mafia who pillage the nation’s wealth, including Gennady N. Timchenko, head of the Volga Group; Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, influential businessmen and former judo sparring partners of Mr Putin; Yuri V. Kovalchuk, a financier believed to be Mr Putin’s banker; Vladimir I. Yakunin, president of Russian Railways; the oligarchs Roman A. Abramovich and Alisher B. Usmanov; and Igor I. Sechin and Aleksei B. Miller, the heads of Rosneft and Gazprom, respectively,’ Mr Navalny named names.

Real sanctions, such as blocking access to their plush London apartments, will show that Mr Putin’s folly comes with serious costs, the politician adds.

Russia will face escalating EU sanctions if it does not take steps to ease the crisis over Crimea, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, speaking ahead of an EU summit in Brussels, adding that the current political situation also meant the G8 effectively no longer existed. The bloc would expand a freeze of bank accounts and travel bans of people that have been linked to the crisis, Mrs Merkel specified.

At the same time, the strategy of waiting game is winning among EU members, the Voice of America reports. Imposing sanctions on Russia could even more destabilise the situation in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, a total of 274 Ukrainian MPs have voted for the declaration on the liberation of Ukraine. Earlier Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry had been given instructions to introduce visas for Russians visiting Ukraine, but Kyiv decided not to take snap decisions, Interfax reports.

The Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs failed to support the idea of introducing visa regime with Ukraine. Any necessary consular aid will be provided to Belarusian citizens in Ukraine and Crimea, officials state.

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