After Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained upon his arrival in Moscow from Germany, Heiko Maas, Germany’s Foreign Minister appealed to the Russian administration, calling for his “immediate release.” United Kingdom’s Foreign Office also expressed deep concern upon his arrest.
Maas wrote, “Russia is bound by its own Constitution and by international obligations to the principle of the rule of law and to the protection of civil rights. These principles must, of course, be applied to Alexei Navalny as well. He should be released immediately,” The Guardian translated.
Kremlin critic Navalny had arrived from Germany on Sunday, 17 January, where he received medical treatment after he was allegedly poisoned last year.
The UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tweeted, “Instead of persecuting the victim of this terrible crime, the Russian authorities should investigate how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil.”
In a statement on Sundat, Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service said its officers detained Navalny at the Sheremetyevo International Airport for his ‘systematic violations of the conditions of the probationary period’, Xinhua news agency reported.
The opposition figure on probation was put on a wanted list on December 29, 2020 and he will remain in detention until a court ruling, the service said.
EU Officials Express Concern
Meanwhile, top European Union (EU) officials expressed concern over Navalny's detention, TASS news agency reported.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also released a statement in support of Navalny’s release, adding, “Detention of political opponents is against Russia’s international commitments.”
"The detainment of Alexey Navalny upon his arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him," European Council President Charles Michel stated on Twitter.
"We ask the Russian authorities for his immediate release. We are ready to invite him to the European Parliament," European Parliament President David Sassoli said in a tweet.
“Russian authorities must respect Alexei Navalny’s rights and release him immediately. Politicisation of the judiciary is unacceptable,” the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said.
The issue will be discussed at an EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on January 25 and at the European Parliament's session that begins on Monday, a diplomatic source in Brussels told TASS.
Mike Pompeo, Jake Sullivan Call for Navalny’s Release
The incoming security advisor to President-Elect Joe Biden’s, Jake Sullivan, tweeted that Navalny, “Should be immediately released,” adding that, “The perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also called for the opposition figure's immediate release.
In a statement, Pompeo said, “The detention is the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities."
"We urge the Russian government to provide a level playing field for all political parties and candidates seeking to compete in the electoral process. Alexei Navalny is not the problem. We demand his immediate and unconditional release," Pompeo added.
Edward Snowden Speaks Out
National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden, who received asylum in Russia after he leaked the classified information of the NSA, also tweeted in Navalny’ support, writing that his, “Arrest seems to me a repetition of mistakes made in the Soviet era, seen elsewhere now in the case against Assange and the war on whistleblowers.”
Foreign Ministers of Slovakia, Poland and Czech Republic React
Foreign Minster of Poland, Zbigniew Rau expressed solidarity with ‘Russian people who share the ideals of the detained Russian opposition leader’, and voiced condemnation of his arrest.
Ivan Korcok and Tomáš Petříček, the Foreign Ministers of Slovak and Czeck Republic also spoke against Navalny’s detention.
Korcok wrote, “Alexey Navalny’s place is in free and safe political competition and not in custody.”
Navalny, a harsh Kremlin critic, fell into a coma on a flight from the Russian city of Tomsk to Moscow on August 20, 2020.
He was then transferred to a Berlin hospital with suspected poisoning symptoms.
In early September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Navalny was poisoned with the Soviet-style Novichok nerve agent.
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied the accusations and demanded solid evidence from Germany.
(With inputs from The Gaurdian)