MOSCOW – Russia on Friday blacklisted eight officials from the European Union in retaliation for EU sanctions over the imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
The Russian list includes European Parliament President David Sassoli and Vera Jourova, the vice president of the European Commission for values and transparency.
European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Sassoli condemned the Russian move, saying it's “unacceptable, lacks any legal justification and is entirely groundless.”
They said in a statement that Moscow's action is "the latest, striking demonstration of how the Russian Federation has chosen confrontation with the EU instead of agreeing to redress the negative trajectory of our bilateral relations."
"The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities’ decision,” the statement said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the EU of trying to punish Moscow for its “independent foreign and domestic policies” and of trying contain its development with “unlawful restrictions.” It particularly referred to the EU sanctions slapped on six Russian officials in March.
“All our proposals for settling problems between Russia and the EU through a direct professional dialogue have been consistently ignored or rejected,” the ministry said.
The EU sanctions targeted the Russian officials involved in the imprisonment of Navalny, the most adamant opponent and critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin — accusations that Russian officials reject. European labs have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned.