By Robin Emmott
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union should follow Britain’s example and impose new anti-corruption sanctions on Russians suspected of fraud and graft, the European Parliament said on Thursday in a resolution that reflected hardening attitudes to Moscow.
Non-EU member Britain imposed sanctions on Monday on 14 Russians under a new law giving the British government the power to penalise those it says are credibly involved in the most serious corruption abroad.
If EU governments follow up on the resolution, such measures would freeze the European Union assets of Russians and other non-EU nationals and bar them from visiting the 27-nation bloc, as Britain has done for its banks and territory.
The resolution, which is not binding but carries political weight, was adopted by 569 votes in favour, 67 against and with 46 abstentions.
Accusing the Kremlin of “posing an external threat to European security” and “waging an internal war on its own people,” EU lawmakers also said Russian funds “of unclear origin” should be banned from the bloc.
“European Union countries should no longer be welcoming places for Russian wealth and investments of unclear origin,” the resolution said. It called on the European Commission and EU governments to do more to stop any Russian state investment “used for subversion, undermining democratic processes and institutions, and spreading corruption”.
Russia’s mission to the EU was not immediately available for comment, but Moscow has repeatedly warned the EU not to meddle in its internal affairs.
The parliament’s common position underscores a change in tone on Russia, a major energy supplier to the EU which many long considered a partner nation. Now lawmakers are increasingly unified in their rejection of authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin.
Andrzej Halicki, a Polish centre-right lawmaker, said: “We need to impose sanctions on the Russian oligarchs,” referring to members of the country’s business elite.
The forthright language follows an EU report on Wednesday accusing Russian state media of sowing disinformation in the bloc to undermine confidence in Western COVID-19 vaccines. Russia denies any such tactics.
Condemning the Russian military build-up on Ukraine’s borders earlier this month, the parliament’s resolution said the EU should exclude Russia from the international payments network SWIFT if the Kremlin launches any incursions into Ukraine.
Russia says it has no such intentions and said the troops near Ukraine and in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014, were part of defensive military drills.
The resolution was welcomed by Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who called it robust. “These are signals Ukraine has asked for, clearly showing Russia possible costs of extending its aggression,” he said on Twitter.
(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin and Natalia Zinets in Kyiv; Editing by Alison Williams)