Green MEP Heidi Hautala has come under fire for what some perceive as her attempt to attenuate a proposed European Parliament resolution calling for asset freezes and visa denials for more than 30 Russian nationals believed to have played a role in the death of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
An article by the online publication the Daily Beast referred to leaked emails in which Hautala reportedly lashed out at what she allegedly termed Europe's "obsession" with "targetting" Russian President Vladimir Putin. It also quoted unnamed sources accusing the Green MEP of opposing the mention of Magnitsky's name in the resolution.
Petri Sarvamaa, a conservative National Coalition Party MEP and former Yle reporter, commented on the Daily Beast article, which takes Hautala to task for allegedly pandering to the interests of Russia. Sarvamaa said in a tweet on Wednesday that he couldn't comment on Hautala's motives for her position on the resolution.
"I can only confirm that with respect to the matter of naming Magnitsky, Hautala actively pulled in the same direction as the Kremlin," he declared in the same tweet.
"I mean that it is not in the Kremlin's interests for Magnitsky to be associated with human rights in EU regulations. Russia does not like the EU talking about him," Sarvamaa told Yle.
"I absolutely do not claim that she is consciously seeking Russia's interests. I only said that in this matter, she [appeared to have] a common interest. I don't know her motives or why she has been so energetic about it," he continued.
Hautala: "My position is clear"
Hautala has disputed the accusations reported in the Daily Beast that she was playing up to Russia, stressing that she supports the resolution.
"My position is extremely clear: I fully support the EU's personal sanctions for human rights violations," she told Yle.
Hautala is one of three MEPs from the Green bloc in the European Parliament who have tabled objections to the proposal.
"EU directives are not named after private individuals," she declared.
Sanctioning human rights violations
Magnitsky was a Russian anti-corruption lawyer specialising in accounting who died in police custody in 2009. Legislation named after him in the US imposes sanctions against Russians suspected of playing a role in his death.
The Netherlands has suggested that the EU should also introduce similar regulations to apply sanctions in the event of human rights violations. An official working group is currently considering the issue.
The European Parliament's resolution aims to support these efforts. However no progress has yet been made in drawing up draft regulations.
MEP Sarvamaa said that any proposed directive should specifically mention Magnitsky, although the regulations would not exclusively target Moscow, but would be applied to similar human rights abuses.
"It would mostly draw attention and it would send a strong signal from the EU because this is such an infamous case internationally," Sarvamaa added.
Magnitsky was working for an investment fund run by the US-born financier and economist Bill Browder when he was arrested by Russian authorities. Since Magnitsky's death, Browder has campaigned to have similar laws introduced in different countries.
Browder took note of Hautala's objections to naming the resolution after Magnitsky and also took to Twitter to call her out for her position.