European Union foreign ministers agreed earlier this month to sanction the military in Myanmar for its coup, withhold development aid and blacklist Russian officials to detain Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

The bloc’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said Monday the EU would not restrict trade ties with Myanmar as this could affect the general population.

“We have made a political agreement to impose sanctions on the military responsible for the coup and its economic interests,” said Borrell. “Any direct financial support to our development system for government reform programs is withheld.”

The military arrested civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1 in a coup that has received widespread international condemnation. Since then, it has launched increasingly bloody crackdowns on pro-democracy demonstrators who have taken to the streets in droves to denounce the takeover.

The United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and the United States have announced targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders, including Major General Min Aung Hlaing.

Despite the growing backlash, the military – known locally as the Tatmadaw – has ignored calls for a return to civilian rule, saying it will hold new elections and hand over power to a victor.

Separately, European diplomats told the AFP news agency that the sanctions against high-ranking Russian officials would target four people responsible for the persecution of Navalny under the new EU human rights regime adopted last year.

The diplomats did not name the target, but the limited move is likely to disappoint those calling for a tough reaction against Moscow.

Navalny’s staff and European lawmakers had asked the ministerial meeting in Brussels to investigate the oligarchs who are accused of funding President Vladimir Putin’s rule.

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the sanctions should “send a declaration that we are not ready to accept certain things”.

“But it is also necessary that we continue to have a dialogue with Russia,” he said.

Borrell did not confirm the number of targets. He said he would officially propose the names to be sanctioned and hoped the measures would be implemented within a week.

“We have to sanction the people who are directly related to his arrest, conviction and persecution,” said Borrell.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Alexander Grushko, dismissed the move as a “broken record” in comments to the state news agency RIA Novosti.

Sentiment towards Moscow heightened across the EU after Borrell was involved in a diplomatic ambush while on a trip to Moscow this month in which the Kremlin evicted three European diplomats.

The bloc has already hit Russia with waves of sanctions over the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s role in the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The EU blacklisted six officials in October for poisoning Navalny in August with Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent.

Navalny, Putin’s most prominent domestic critic, was jailed for nearly three years this month after returning to Russia after receiving treatment in Germany for his poisoning.

His prison sparked nationwide protests in which security forces arrested thousands of people with batons.

Two of Navalny’s closest collaborators, at a meeting with eight EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Sunday, pushed for sanctions against Putin’s top circle – including oligarchs.

“If there are only 10 Kremlin officials who do not travel abroad and have no assets abroad, it would indeed not be painful,” Navalny’s key assistant Leonid Volkov told journalists.

Venezuela, Belarus

European ministers also blacklisted 19 Venezuelan officials for “undermining democracy” and human rights abuses after the EU rejected the December parliamentary elections as undemocratic.

The bloc discussed ongoing repression in Belarus and said it would consider the need for a fourth round of sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s government.

Ministers also eyed China’s crackdown on Hong Kong as the EU tried to assess whether to step up its response after Beijing increased its influence.

Borrell said Brussels will try to support Hong Kong civil society as a first step and will consider further action if the situation worsens.


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