US and EU demand release of Alexei Navalny

US and EU demand release of Alexei Navalny
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny walks to take his seat in a Pobeda airlines plane heading to Moscow before take-off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport. Source: AFP
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Daily US Times: The US and several European governments have demanded the release of Alexei Navalny, the opposition politician, from Russia’s detention.

Mr Navalny, a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, was detained soon after his flight from Germany landed in Moscow on Sunday.

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

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the international condemnation.

Mr Lavrov said Western politicians were using it as a way to “divert attention” from domestic problems.

On Sunday, Russia’s prison service said Mr Navalny had violated the terms of his suspended sentence for embezzlement, and that he would remain in custody until a court ruling.

Navalny’s team said a court hearing was organised on Monday at a police station on the outskirts of the capital Moscow. In a video released by his spokeswoman, the opposition leader described the hearing as “lawlessness of the highest grade”.

The United States and European Union have led calls for Alexei Navalny to be freed, but have stopped short of threatening any punitive action.

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, said the Russian authorities were trying to silence their critics. Mr Pompeo called for Mr Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release”.

He said: “Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor commit violence against or wrongfully detain political opponents.”

Joe Biden’s incoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan 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.”

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