BRUSSELS -- European Union foreign ministers agreed Monday to impose new sanctions against Russian officials linked to the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and expressed concern that the government in Moscow appears to see the 27-nation bloc as an adversary.
"We reached a political agreement to impose restrictive measures against those responsible for [Navalny's] arrest and sentencing and persecution," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing their meeting in Brussels. He gave no details about the sanctions, but said that he hoped they would be finalized in about a week.
Borrell suggested that those targeted wouldn't include oligarchs close to President Vladimir Putin, as Navalny's supporters have requested.
Navalny, 44, an anti-corruption investigator and Putin's most prominent critic, was arrested in Moscow last month upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities have rejected the accusation.
Earlier this month, a court sentenced Navalny to two years and eight months in prison for violating the terms of his probation while recuperating in Germany. The sentence stems from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that Navalny has rejected as fabricated.
The European Court of Human Rights has also ruled that it's unlawful. Navalny's arrest and imprisonment have fueled a huge wave of protests across Russia. Authorities responded with a sweeping crackdown, detaining about 11,000 people, many of whom were fined or given jail terms ranging from seven to 15 days.
"There is a shared assessment in the Council that Russia is drifting towards an authoritarian state and driving away from Europe," Borrell told reporters.
Given Moscow's apparent path of "confrontation and disengagement," Borrell said the bloc will work on three tracks: pushing back when Russia infringes international law, containing it when it pressures the EU, and engaging on issues that are in Europe's interests.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken joined the ministers via videoconference for part of their meeting, with talks focusing on Russia but also China. Borrell said the exchange was "very, very encouraging," and showed Washington's willingness to not only renew ties but to join in global leadership on the coronavirus, economic recovery, climate change and protecting democratic values.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top human rights body has opened its first and highest-level meeting of 2021, amid growing concerns on issues including the military coup in Burma, the arrest of Navalny and the rights situations in several countries, including China.
The four-week session at the Human Rights Council starting Monday drew several presidents and prime ministers for its "high-level segment."
The military coup and violent crackdown on protesters in Burma since early February was among the most pressing issues on the council's agenda.
"Today, I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately," U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. "Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights and the will of the people expressed in recent elections. Coups have no place in our modern world."
Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that military authorities adopted in 1989. Some nations, such as the United States and Britain, have refused to adopt the name change.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab cited a "dire and shocking situation" in Russia and said it was "disgraceful" that Navalny had been sentenced on "arbitrary charges" after being poisoned last year.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas spoke out on China, citing "arbitrary detention of ethnic minorities" like Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region and "China's crackdown on civil liberties in Hong Kong."
His Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, echoed his government's frequent critique of foreign meddling in China's "internal affairs" and defended Beijing's policies in Hong Kong -- where he claimed public support for a widely criticized security law -- and Xinjiang.
Aside from such hot-button issues, the session is expected to tackle a global array of human rights concerns like post-election repression in Belarus, a squeeze by Ethiopia's government on the country's Tigray region, and state-sponsored violence in countries including Nicaragua.
"Every corner of the globe is suffering from the sickness of violations of human rights," said Guterres.
Information for this article was contributed by Geir Moulson and Jamey Keaten of The Associated Press.