Alexei Navalny urged the EU to hit Russian oligarchs spending their fortunes in Europe with sanctions rather than targeting the officials responsible for his poisoning.
The Kremlin critic narrowly escaped death after he was attacked with the nerve agent Novichok in August. He accused Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder.
“The European Union should target the money and Russian oligarchs," Mr Navalny told the European Parliament in Brussels, “these sanctions would be very popular inside of Russia.”
Europe had to treat the oligarchs as “bunch of criminals temporarily in power" rather than be the playground of Mr Putin’s allies, Mr Navalny said. He warned the Russian president would try to rig next year’s elections.
The opposition leader said the Kremlin would never take EU sanctions seriously as long as the yachts of Russia’s super-rich were moored in European cities such as Barcelona and Monaco.
“They just think that they are playing the European Union because they [the EU] are afraid of deploying real sanctions against real money,” he said.
The EU hit six senior Russian officials with sanctions in October after the chemical weapon attack on Mr Navalny, who is recovering in Germany after collapsing on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk. He spent three weeks in a medically induced coma.
“Unfortunately I will not be the last one, who is poisoned, or killed or treated in this way," he said.
Mr Navalny said the travel ban and asset freezes would make little difference to the “colonels” who carried out the attack. They rarely travel outside Russia and didn’t have property or bank accounts in Europe, he said.
Germany, which holds the rotating Presidency of the EU, hopes to get agreement on a “European Magnitsky Act” by the end of the year. It could enter into force in January.
It would allow the EU to quickly impose sanctions on individuals suspected of human rights violations regardless of where the offence took place in the world.