Russia Pushes Back on EU's Sanctions, Says It's Trying to Impede Country's Development

Russia pushed back Friday on the European Union's sanctions of six Russian officials in March, saying that the EU is trying to impede Russia's development with "unlawful restrictions," the Associated Press reported.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the EU is seeking to punish the nation for its "independent foreign and domestic policies" and moved to blacklist eight EU officials.

"All our proposals for settling problems between Russia and the EU through a direct professional dialogue have been consistently ignored or rejected," the ministry said.

The EU issued sanctions on Russian officials connected to opposition leader Alexei Navalny's imprisonment. Navalny is widely known as one of President Vladimir Putin's top critics. Russia has repeatedly denounced criticism from the EU and the U.S. over Navalny's imprisonment.

Among the eight blacklisted EU officials is European Parliament President David Sassoli.

The EU said it has been imposing "restrictive measures" against Russia since 2014 because of ongoing tensions involving Russian actions toward Ukraine.

"The measures were adopted in response to [Russia's] illegal annexation of Crimea and the deliberate destabilization of Ukraine," according to the EU.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Russian Foreign Ministry Headquarters
The Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow on April 29. Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images

The Russian list of blacklisted officials also includes Vera Jourova, the vice president of the European Commission for values and transparency.

Navalny was arrested in January upon his return from Germany where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin—accusations that Russian officials reject. European labs have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned.

In February, Navalny was sentenced to two and half years in prison on charges of violating the terms of a suspended sentence while he was in Germany. The sentence stemmed from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as politically driven.

The U.S. and the EU have also criticized Russia's crackdown on protests demanding Navalny's release as meddling in its internal affairs.

The tensions over Navalny have further exacerbated Russia's relations with the West, which plunged to post-Cold War lows after Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Those ties have become further strained over U.S. and the EU accusations of Moscow's interference in elections and hacking attacks.

The Russian sanctions list also includes Ilmar Tomusk, the head of Estonia's Language Inspectorate; Ivars Abolins, chairman of Latvia's National Electronic Media Council; Maris Baltins, director of the Latvian State Language Center; Jacques Maire, a French lawmaker who is also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe; Berlin chief state prosecutor Jorg Raupach; and Asa Scott, head of chemical and biological defense and security division at the Swedish Defense Research Agency.

Workers Remove Navalny Graffiti
Municipal workers paint over graffiti showing imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 28. The worlds on the wall say, "Hero of our time." Valentin Egorshin/AP Photo