Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny called on the European Union on Wednesday (7 October) to take tough action against oligarchs close to the Kremlin as he continues his recovery in Germany after being poisoned by a nerve agent in the banned Novichok family.
Germany said on Tuesday it was discussing with its partners what action to take after the global chemicals watchdog confirmed Navalny had been poisoned with a new and undeclared variant in the Novichok family.
Several Western governments have said Russia, which has denied accusations by Navalny that it was involved in the poisoning, must help in investigations or face consequences.
“Sanctions against the whole country don’t work. The most important thing is to impose entry bans on profiteers of the regime and freeze their assets,” Navalny told top-selling German daily Bild.
“They embezzle money, steal billions and at the weekend they fly to Berlin or London, buy expensive apartments and sit in cafes,” he said.
He singled out Valery Gergiev, chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic as a target for sanctions, saying he was a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Options for action include targeted asset freezes or travel bans on Russians deemed to be involved in the Navalny case, economic sanctions and halting the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that is being built to carry gas directly from Russia to Germany.
Navalny was airlifted to Berlin for treatment after taking ill on a flight in Siberia on 20 August and has since been discharged. He has said he wants to return to Russia.
He was scathing about what he said was Russia’s failure to help in the investigation.
“There is not even an attempt to make it look like they are investigating,” Navalny told Bild, reiterating his view that his poisoning was a direct order from Putin.
Navalny also criticised former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a friend of Putin and lobbyist for Russian energy firms, calling him “an errand boy for Putin who protects murderers”.