EU holds off on new Russia sanctions after Navalny protest arrests

The European Union will hold off from imposing fresh sanctions on Russian individuals on Monday, EU diplomats said, despite the arrest of more than 3,000 people across Russia on Saturday to demand the release of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Lithuania's foreign minister, arriving in Brussels for a meeting of the bloc's 27 top diplomats, said "a change is in the air in Russia" that the bloc must support, especially after Navalny's detention as he returned to Russia from Germany.

"The EU needs to send a very clear and decisive message that this is not acceptable," Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a video statement, calling for more sanctions on Russian individuals.

However, the EU will for now go for a step-by-step approach with the Kremlin, with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to first to go to Moscow to make clear the bloc's anger at Navalny's arrest, two diplomats said. EU states will also press for the release of pro-democracy demonstrators.

The EU already has economic sanctions on the Russian energy, financial and arms sectors over its 2014 annexation of the Crimea peninsula and has imposed sanctions on Russian officials close to President Vladimir Putin in response to Navalny's poisoning in August.

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