On March 2, 2021, the Council of the European Union announced the implementation of Regulation (EU) 2021/371 and Regulation (EU) 2021/372 issuing sanctions related to serious human rights violations and abuses against four Russian officials pursuant to Annex 1 to Regulation (EU) 2020/1998. The restrictive measures were imposed for the officials’ participation in Russia’s arbitrary conviction and arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the subsequent detention of peaceful protestors and violent suppression of their “freedom of assembly, opinion and expression” that occurred at demonstrations held in response to Navalny’s arrest. The four officials against whom the restrictive measures were imposed include Russia’s head of law enforcement and prisons, the head of investigations, its prosecutor general, and the head of the national guard.
Navalny remains in prison despite an February 17, 2021 order by the European Court of Human Rights requesting his release. He was arrested upon his arrival at the Moscow airport on January 17, 2021, not long after recovering in Germany from Novichock poisoning. Navalny returned to Russia only after he was ordered to do so by Russia’s head of law enforcement and prisons in December of 2020, who demanded that he meet with a probation officer or risk imprisonment for violating a suspended sentence for fraud conviction – a conviction that the European Court of Human Rights found to be “arbitrary and unfair” in 2018.