A bus ride on the runway tarmac and a brisk walk through the well-lit terminal corridor was all the freedom Alexei Navalny had obtained on his return to Russia before being arrested by the police waiting for him at the checkpoint. passports.
the arrest of Mr. NavalnyRussia’s strongest critic of President Vladimir Putin has been consistently condemned by Western governments, with a number of EU states threatening to impose sanctions if the Kremlin does not release the activist from 44 years.
Mr. Navalny was coming back of Berlin after recovering from an assassination attempt using novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union, in August. He and European governments blamed the attack on the Kremlin, but Moscow has denied any involvement despite the use of the poison and claimed it could have been poisoned outside of Russia.
Moscow arrested Mr. Navalny on Sunday evening for allegedly rape the terms of a suspended sentence in 2014, which could see him jailed for up to three and a half years.
Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said the country would “immediately raise questions about the possible EU response to the detention and persecution of Navalny, and further sanctions against Russia.”
“It seems that Navalny, who dared to challenge the government, made another most unfortunate mistake. He survived ”, declared Gabrielius Landsbergis, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Supporters of Mr Navalny claim his arrest is aimed at preventing him from campaigning ahead of the critical parliamentary elections in September, as Mr Putin’s ruling party has reached record levels.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, called his detention “unacceptable” and called for his immediate release.
Heiko Maas, German Foreign Minister, echoed this point of view. “It is completely incomprehensible that he was arrested immediately after his arrival by the Russian authorities,” he said.
“Russia is, by its own constitution and by its international obligations, bound by the principle of the rule of law and the protection of civil rights. These principles must of course also apply to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately.
Mike Pompeo, the outgoing US Secretary of State, and Jake Sullivan, President-elect Joe Biden’s candidate for national security adviser, condemned the arrest and called for his release.
“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor do they see the need to commit violence or improperly detain political opponents,” Pompeo said wrote on Twitter.
The EU imposed sanctions on six officials it said were involved in the attack after Western labs confirmed Mr Navalny was poisoned with a chemical weapon during a visit to countryside in Siberia.
But some European politicians have called on Brussels to do more.
Mateusz Morawiecki, Polish Prime Minister, said: “A swift and unequivocal response at EU level is essential. Respect for the rights of citizens is the basis of democracy. ”
Tomas Petricek, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, said he would “propose a discussion on possible sanctions” at a meeting of EU ministers, and accused Moscow of “violating related international treaties human rights ”.
Mr Navalny was separated from his wife and lawyer at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and detained by officers before being transferred to a police station in the north of the city.
Russian authorities have issued an arrest warrant for the anti-corruption activist after allegedly violating the terms of a suspended sentence by failing to show up for face-to-face meetings. A court was asked last week to change that sentence to jail time.
The sentence concerns a conviction for fraud in 2014 which the European Court of Human Rights found to be politically motivated. Russia has also opened an investigation into new allegations of fraud. If Mr. Navalny is found guilty, he could be jailed for up to 10 years.
“I am not afraid,” Navalny told reporters moments before his detention. “I know I’m right. I know the criminal cases against me are fabricated.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, rejected what she called “pre-prepared comments” from foreign officials and called on them “to respect international law, not to infringe on the national laws of sovereign states and to solve the problems in your own country ”.