EU to hold off on new Russia sanctions if Navalny released

The European Union will hold off from imposing fresh sanctions on Russian individuals if the Kremlin releases pro-democracy campaigner Alexei Navalny, EU foreign ministers said on Monday, sending the bloc's top diplomat to Moscow next week.

Despite calls from Baltic countries, Italy and Romania for sanctions on Russian officials in response to Navalny's detention as he returned to Russia from Germany on January 17th, Germany pushed to give the Kremlin more time.

"We have agreed today to wait for the court's decision, to wait to see ... whether Alexei Navalny is set free after 30 days," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters following a meeting with his EU counterparts. "This is not over."

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic, was detained and jailed for alleged parole violations after flying back to Russia for the first time since being poisoned by what Germany says was a military-grade nerve agent in August.

He accuses Putin of ordering his murder, which the Kremlin denies. His supporters held nationwide protests on Saturday, leading to more than 3,000 arrests and intensifying international calls for Navalny's release.

In central Moscow on Saturday, where Reuters reporters estimated up to 40,000 people had gathered in one of the biggest unauthorized rallies for years, police were seen roughly detaining people, bundling them into nearby vans.

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