EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday the bloc holds Russia “responsible” for the health of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as EU foreign ministers held virtual talks on soaring tensions with Moscow.
The United States has warned the Kremlin of “consequences” if President Vladimir Putin’s major domestic opponent — who is currently on hunger strike — dies in prison after doctors warned at the weekend he could pass away at “any minute”.
Borrell said Navalny’s condition was “very worrisome” and repeated a call for immediate access to be granted for medical professionals he trusts.
Lithuania said its Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis would propose that the EU “take immediate measures” at the video talks of the bloc’s top diplomats Monday.
Navalny, 44, was arrested in Russia in January after returning from a near-fatal nerve agent poisoning he says was carried out by Moscow — accusations denied by Putin’s administration.
The EU in October sanctioned six Russian officials over the Novichok nerve agent attempt and in February sanctioned another four individuals over Navalny’s arrest and sentencing.
Navalny’s supporters have called for a major protest across Russia on Wednesday to demand his release, hours after a state-of-the-nation address by Putin.
EU foreign ministers will hold talks with Kiev’s top diplomat at the meeting over a major military buildup by Russia along Ukraine’s borders amid concerns over an escalation in the country’s long-simmering conflict.
Kiev has been battling Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and clashes intensified early this year, effectively shredding a ceasefire agreed last July.
EU foreign ministers are also set to be briefed on spiralling tensions between the Czech Republic and Russia.
Czech authorities accused them of involvement in a deadly 2014 explosion on its soil at a military ammunition warehouse that killed two people.
The two Russians were identified as Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepigov based on video footage from the site and photos published after the Skripal attack, according to Czech media.