Region:
Europe
Category:
Politics

Alexei Navalny: EU and US demand release of poisoned Putin critic

  • Alexei Navalny: EU and US demand release of poisoned Putin critic
    Mr Navalny, 44, was detained soon after his flight from Germany landed in Moscow on Sunday. Alexei Navalny: EU and US demand release of poisoned Putin critic
Region:
Europe
Category:
Politics
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The United States and several European governments have demanded the release of opposition politician Alexei Navalny from Russian detention.

Mr Navalny, 44, was detained soon after his flight from Germany landed in Moscow on Sunday.

He was returning to the country five months after he was almost killed in a nerve-agent attack he blamed on the Kremlin. Moscow has denied involvement.

Russia's foreign minister dismissed the international condemnation.

Sergei Lavrov said Western politicians were using it as a way to "divert attention" from domestic problems.

Russia's prison service on Sunday said the Kremlin critic had violated the terms of his suspended sentence for embezzlement, and that he would remain in custody until a court ruling.

Mr Navalny's team said a court hearing was organised on Monday at a police station on the outskirts of Moscow. In a video released by his spokeswoman, Mr Navalny described the hearing as "lawlessness of the highest grade".

What has the international reaction been?
The US and European Union have led calls for Mr Navalny to be freed, but have stopped short of threatening any punitive action.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Russian authorities were trying to silence their critics. He called for Mr Navalny's "immediate and unconditional release".

"Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor commit violence against or wrongfully detain political opponents," Mr Pompeo said.

US President-elect Joe Biden's incoming national security adviser stuck a similar tone, saying: "The Kremlin's attacks on Mr Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard."

The response from the EU was equally strong, with France, Italy and the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, among those issuing demands for his release.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the arrest as "totally incomprehensible".

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Mr Navalny's arrest was "appalling" and called for his immediate release.

"Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny, Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil," he said.

Alexei Navalny:
Mr Navalny is an anti-corruption campaigner and the most prominent face of Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin, whose party he says is full of "crooks and thieves".