Moscow: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s arrest as he arrived here Sunday after recovering from his poisoning with a nerve agent drew criticism from Western nations. They called for the release of Alexei Navalny. Germany’s foreign minister Monday termed the arrest as ‘incomprehensible’.
Navalny was detained at passport control at Sheremetyevo Airport here after flying in Sunday evening from Berlin. He was undergoing treatment in Berlin following the poisoning in August that he blames on the Kremlin. His arrest added layer of tension to relations between Moscow and the West that have long been strained and were worsened by his poisoning.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that Navalny had returned of his own volition. “It is completely incomprehensible that he was detained by Russian authorities immediately after his arrival. Russia is bound by its own constitution and by international commitments to the principle of the rule of law and the protection of civil rights,” Maas stated. “These principles must of course also be applied to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately,” he added.
European Council president Charles Michel tweeted that Navalny’s detention is ‘unacceptable’. He also called for his immediate release, a call echoed by France’s foreign ministry and by Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau.
“I express my solidarity with all Russian people who share the ideals of the detained Russian opposition leader. Alexei, don’t give up,” Rau said.
US President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security adviser called on Russian authorities to free Navalny. “Mr Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable,” Jake Sullivan tweeted.
The outgoing US Secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US ‘strongly condemns’ the decision to arrest Navalny.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Monday the stream of reactions to Navalny’s arrest by Western officials reflects an attempt ‘to divert attention from the crisis of the Western model of development’.
Navalny’s detention was widely expected because Russia’s prisons service said he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction. The prisons service said he would be held in custody until a court rules on his case. No date for a court appearance was immediately announced. The service earlier said that it would seek to have Navalny serve his 3 1/2-year sentence behind bars.
Earlier Navalny, 44, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, brushed off concerns about arrest as he boarded his flight in Berlin. “It’s impossible. I’m an innocent man,” he said.
The politician’s allies said Monday he is being held at a police precinct outside this city. He has been refused access to his lawyer.