Norway joins new Russia sanctions

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Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide confirmed on Thursday that Norway is attaching itself to new sanctions that the European Union (EU) is imposing against top officials in Russia. It means Norway faces sanctions from Russia in return, but Søreide claims it’s worth the risk. 

Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide met with her Russian counterpart Sergej Lavrov last fall. Relations have chilled considerably since then. PHOTO: Utenriksdepartementet

“We can’t accept that opposition politicians are poisoned with military poison, without it having any consequences,” Søreide told state broadcaster NRK. She was specifically referring to how Russian opposition politician Aleksej Navalnyj was recently attacked with a special type of nerve poison that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Navalnyj, who has tied the attack directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, narrowly survived after being rushed to Germany for treatment. Russian officials have denied Navalnyj was actually poisoned, and claim they’re the target of a campaign to make Russia look bad.

Norway’s decision to join the EU sanctions against Russia comes just after the Norwegian government also publicly blamed Russia for hacking email accounts at the Norwegian Parliament. The historically strong reaction by Norway is further souring relations with its neighbour in the north, with Russian officials angrily denying any involvement in the hacking attack, but Søreide isn’t backing down.

“We want a good and pragmatic relation with Russian, but we must react when our most important democratic institution is attacked, and when central opposition leaders are subjected to nerve poison attacks,” said Søreide, noting how Norway has also upheld the EU’s restrictive measures against Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. “It’s in violation of international law to use this form of poison, and it’s crucial for countries like Norway to uphold the rule of law.”

News bureau Reuters has reported that the new EU sanctions are expected to target top officials close to Putin, including the head of Russia’s national security and intelligence agency FSB (formerly the KGB) and Putin’s second-in-command. They will no longer be able to travel into the EU, for example, and any assets they hold in the EU will be frozen.

“We expect that Russia will disagree (with the sanctions),” Søreide told NRK, but she stressed how independent tests conducted in Sweden, Germany and France and by the international organization against chemical weapons all confirm that Navalnyj was poisoned.  Navalnyj, meanwhile, has said he intends to travel home to Russia when his treatment at a hospital in Berlin is completed.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund