Leonid Volkov, Navalny's chief of staff, said that during a meeting with a group of EU foreign ministers on Sunday night, held at Lithuania's initiative.

"Everything what happens in Russia should be considered in the context of the upcoming Duma elections. We are in the midst of the political season and almost all of Navalny's allies are expelled or under house arrest," Volkov told BNS by phone after the meeting with EU ministers. "It is not only the personal story of Alexey Navalny but also that Putin is preparing for a major election fraud in September."

He also said he discussed with the ministers "targeted personal sanctions" for Putin's closest allies and people who are guilty of major human rights violations, but not sanctions for the Russian economy which could be exploited for propaganda purposes.

Eight EU foreign ministers attended the meeting with Volkov and Zhdanov, head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation. The majority of other countries were represented by their ambassadors, and a representative of the European Commission was also in attendance.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers should announce a political agreement to introduce sanctions for Russian officials over actions against Navalny.

Anti-corruption activist, Navalny, 44, was detained on January 17 at a Moscow airport after flying in from Germany where he underwent treatment following his poisoning with a Novichok nerve agent last summer. Navalny believes the Kremlin and the Federal Security Service are responsible for his poisoning.

Soon after his return, a Russian court sentenced Navalny to almost three years in prison. The European Court of Human Rights demanded that Navalny be released but Moscow refused to execute this order.

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