Russia says it needs to be ready to respond if the European Union imposes harsh sanctions on the country over the arrest and jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow should be prepared to replace any of its vital infrastructure with necessary elements to counter the difficulties that Russia would face if faced with foreign sanctions.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with a YouTube channel (Soloviev Live, February 12, 2021) earlier Friday that Moscow is ready to sever ties with the European Union if the 27-member bloc imposes harsh economic sanctions on Russia.
Lavrov said that his country would take countermeasures if “we again see sanctions imposed in some sectors that create risks for our economy, including in the most sensitive spheres,” adding that Russians “don't want to isolate ourselves from global life, but we have to be ready for that. If you want peace, then prepare for war."
Likely sanctions would be travel bans and asset freezes on associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, which after France and Germany indicated they were willing to take measures on Russia, could be imposed as soon as this month.
Pressure for sanctions has intensified after Moscow expelled German, Polish and Swedish diplomats last week without informing the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, who was in Moscow for a visit.
Navalny, 44, appeared again in court Friday for allegedly making a derogatory statement about a World War II veteran last year.
The hearing came after the court ordered Navalny last month to serve 2 1/2 years in prison for allegedly violating a suspended sentence while recovering from a poisoning in Germany.
Meanwhile, there are unconfirmed reports that Navalny’s wife, Yulia, has fled Russia for Germany.
The Russian news agency Interfax and German daily Der Spiegel each reported her departure, quoting unnamed sources.
Speaking to the state-run TASS news agency, lawyers for the Navalnys could not confirm her departure and said they had no information about it.