Mr Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s former Brexit representative and a frequent critic of Britain’s decision to quit the EU, took to Twitter after a Russian court refused to overturn the decision to send Mr Navalny to a prison camp. The former Belgian Prime Minister posted: “Injustice is written into Putin’s regime.
“The EU should react with sanctions against him & all those who profit from his corruption.
“No half work – this is a full crisis which threatens not just Russians but democracy in Europe as well!”
However, others were less than impressed by Mr Verhofstadt’s calls for action.
Luis Beltran suggested Brussels lacked the courage of its convictions, replying: “European foreign policy is pathetic and weak. Europe is an exhausted continent.”
Another said: “We are waiting years for EU to act. Why so soft foreign policy? It’s absurd.”
One British Twitter user commented: “EU will do sweet FA, just like to hear themselves talk tough. Thank God we are rid of them.”
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Others suggested the EU itself had little to boast about.
One said: “Guy, while the EU trades with Russia it does not have the moral high ground.
“Let’s get the EU’s own issues and unruly undemocratic states in order first.”
Another added: “Better focus on Europe. There are enough situations you could try and do something with.”
Still more specifically highlighted Germany’s controversial Nordstream 2 deal with Russia, criticised by among others former US President Donald Trump.
Mike Payne said: You could try by NOT buying his gas??
Similarly, Tony O’Neill1976 said: “You can start by not relying on Russian oil & gas.
“You talk about being green as well. It’s all words.”
Mr Navalny, 44, who attempted to run against Mr Putin in the 2018 Presidential election, was poisoned last year in an attack widely blamed on agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service.
Nevertheless, he returned to Moscow from Germany in January, at which point he was immediately arrested.
Speaking today, Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s chief of staff, told Reuters on Saturday he believes Putin would only consider releasing him if hit by sanctions.
“Putin is a dictator, but he is quite rational. If the upsides of having Navalny in prison become less than the downsides, he will change his decision.
“If many of his closest allies become unhappy, this can be dangerous to Putin and this could lead him to decide to change his mind.
“Or maybe not – but sanctions is the best thing that Europe can do now.”
Josep Borrell, the European Commissioner in charge of foreign policy, was widely criticised after visiting Moscow in the wake of Mr Navalny’s imprisonment, at one point sitting in silence while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the bloc as an “unreliable partner”.