Russia details 'killer sanctions' they may impose on the West
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The Eurocrat took to Twitter to hit out at the latest development in the curbing of free speech in Russia. Four Russian billionaires and the country’s state-owned oil firm have filed separate lawsuits against HarperCollins over its publishing of a book detailing the rise of President Vladimir Putin.
The legal action against the book, Putin’s People, comes following months of rising tensions between the Russian president and the outside world.
In early March the EU joined the US in slapping sanctions on senior Russian officials in response to the poisoning attack and jailing of opposition leader Alexie Navalny
Two months on, Mr Navalny’s health has drastically deteriorated as he remains in prison.
A prominent critic of Mr Putin, Mr Navalny was jailed in February for old embezzlement charges and continues to enjoy a high level of support from the public.
On March 22 Brussels sanctioned two Russians accused of persecuting gay and lesbian people in Chechnya.
But Mr Verhofstadt suggested the bloc’s action did not go far enough as he called for a tougher response.
He said: “Putin’s nuisance value extends beyond Russia’s borders.
“He and his oligarch friends are not safe until free speech and critical media are silenced everywhere.
“Cut off their money supply, impose real sanctions now!”
While his call was welcomed by some on social media, others pointed to double standards within the EU.
One Brexit supporter questioned why Mr Verhofstadt wanted to punish Mr Putin for his efforts to gag Russians after he himself didn’t seem too keen on Brexiteers speaking out.
The person wrote: “Didn’t the EU try to silence the free speech and free will of the British people who voted to leave the EU?
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“I suggest that you speak with forked tongue.
“I also suggest the EU look inward before condemning others.”
Another opponent of tougher sanctions on Russia predicted possible repercussions for the EU, especially Germany.
They said if the EU slaps more penalties on Moscow it could retaliate by “cutting gas supplies” to Europe.
Others said it was “right and good how passionately European politicians are on the side of the Russian people (without being asked)” but questioned why they did not jump to defend freedom of speech in other nations, such as Turkey.
As the detention of Mr Navalny continues, Russia’s ambassador to Britain last month said he would not die in prison.
Andrei Kelin said: “Of course he will not be allowed to die in prison, but I can say that Mr Navalny behaves like a hooligan absolutely in trying to violate every rule that has been established.”
He added that Mr Navalny was attempting “to attract attention”.
The opposition leader almost died last August when he was poisoned with the chemical nerve agent Novichok.
He accuses President Putin of ordering the poisoning, an accusation which the Kremlin denies.
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