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New Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has a message for the European Union on Russia: Stick with sanctions, they work.Â
EU leaders are planning to gather in March for a summit where they plan to discuss relations with Russia.Â Ahead of that meeting, Kallas said EU leaders must accelerate the debate over further targeted sanctions as a response to Moscowâ€™s recent crackdown on government opponents.Â
â€œWe donâ€™t want to sanction Russia as a country, we want to sanction those people who are responsible for these deeds, and from our point of view the sanctions still work,â€ Kallas told POLITICO. â€œIt is a nuisance for officials in Russia, and it makes them think otherwise.â€
Sanctions have been a key part of Brusselsâ€™ response to human rights violations it alleges Russian President Vladimir Putinâ€™s government has perpetrated in recent years.Â
In response to Russiaâ€™s 2014 annexation of the Ukrainian region Crimea, the EU imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 177 individuals and 48 entities.Â
And in October, Brussels sanctioned six officials and a government lab after it judged Russian officials were behind the near-fatal poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.Â
Navalny was successfully treated for the effects of the poisoning in Germany, but was later jailed for more than two years upon returning to his homeland following a quick-fire trial widely seen as politically motivated.Â
Estonian leader Kallas said more sanctions should be imposed, while existing sanctions should be given time to have an effect. She warned fellow EU leaders against rushing to judgment on the effectiveness of such moves.
â€œWhen we impose sanctions, some ask after six months, â€˜Have they worked?â€™ And if they havenâ€™t, â€˜Remove them because they donâ€™t work.â€™ But actually it is a longer process,â€ she said.
Leaders of the three Baltic states â€” Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania â€” have long been among the most vocal advocates of censuring senior figures in Russia (and also Belarus) for human rights violations they say have been widespread.Â
They argue that targeting the assets and freedom of movement of senior political figures serves both to punish those behind suspected violations and as a warning to those who might consider doing so in the future.Â
Baltic leaders also regularly accuse the EU of dragging its heels in its response.
â€œIt is not enough to judge, to assess, to condemn, there should be actions, we have to speed up,â€ Lithuaniaâ€™s then-Foreign Minister Linas LinkeviÄius said last year after a disputed election in Belarus triggered protests that were met with a brutal police response.Â
On Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who this month made a controversial trip to Moscow, said he planned to propose further sanctions on Russia, but gave no details.Â
Borrell has faced sharp criticism from MEPs and European diplomats for remaining silent as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the EU an â€œunreliable partnerâ€.Â
Estonian leader Kallas said it was clear that Borrellâ€™s visit had not gone well.Â
â€œThis was not a success, to put it mildly,â€ she said.Â
However, she added that Borrellâ€™s trip had served to illustrate one thing: hopes for progress through further talks with Russia are in vain.
â€œAfter the visit, it couldnâ€™t be clearer that Russia does not want any dialogue,â€ she said.