EU leaders have reacted with fury at Russia’s decision to sanction European Parliament president David Sassoli and European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova.
Russia has also barred officials from Estonia, France, Germany, Latvia and Sweden from entering the country in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Russian citizens by the EU.
Russia's foreign ministry said those banned included Jourova, Vice President for values and transparency at the Commission, European Parliament President Sassoli and Jacques Maire, a member of the French delegation at the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly.
Russia also banned three officials from the Baltic States: Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia's National Electronic Media Council, Maris Baltins, director of the Latvian State Language Centre, and Ilmar Tomusk, head of Estonia's Language Inspectorate as well as Jorg Raupach, Berlin's public prosecutor, and Asa Scott, of the Swedish Defence Research Agency.
In a tweet, Sassoli said “no sanctions or intimidation would stop the parliament or him defending human rights, freedom and democracy.”
"Threats will not silence us. As Tolstoy wrote, there is no greatness where there is no truth.”
"Threats will not silence us. As Tolstoy wrote, there is no greatness where there is no truth” European Parliament president David Sassoli
In an interview, Jourova also condemned Russia, saying, “We had a Dutch report on shooting down the plane in Ukraine, a British report on the Salisbury attack. We have weekly reports from [the European External Action Service] exposing Russia’s disinformation, especially now the propaganda around the Sputnik V vaccine.”
A joint statement by Charles Michel, Ursula von de Leyen, presidents of the Council and Commission, and Sassoli, said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the decision of the Russian authorities to ban eight European Union nationals from entering Russian territory.”
“This action is unacceptable, lacks any legal justification and is entirely groundless. It targets the European Union directly, not only the individuals concerned.”
“This decision is the latest, striking demonstration of how the Russian Federation has chosen confrontation with the EU instead of agreeing to redress the negative trajectory of our bilateral relations. The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities’ decision.”
The two leaders of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in Parliament, Raffaele Fitto and Prof Ryszard Legutko, said, “The actions against Sassoli are a sharp reminder of the need for tangible measures to be taken against the Russian aggressor.”
“The ECR stands in full solidarity with our colleague in the Parliament.”
“This decision is the latest, striking demonstration of how the Russian Federation has chosen confrontation with the EU instead of agreeing to redress the negative trajectory of our bilateral relations. The EU reserves the right to take appropriate measures in response to the Russian authorities’ decision” EU joint statement
Fitto added, “I extend my deepest sympathies to Sassoli. Mr Putin continues to sink to new lows. Threats and acts of arrogance will not make us abandon our commitment to human rights.”
Socialist Group MEP and coordinator in the foreign affairs committee, Tonino Picula, added: “Our relations with Russia are at a very low point.”
EU High Representative Josep Borrell noted, “The European Union condemns the decision. The EU stands in solidarity with all of these individuals. Russia’s actions will not deter the EU from continuing to stand up for human rights, democracy and international law, nor from holding those responsible for violations and abuses of human rights to account.”
“This decision, which directly targets the EU and its member states, is unacceptable, devoid of any legal justification and baseless. It serves to underline that the Russian Federation has so far chosen the path of confrontation instead of seeking to reverse the negative trajectory of EU-Russia relations.”
The issue will next be discussed when the European Council meets on May 25.