‘Appalling’: World leaders react to Alexei Navalny’s arrest in Russia
Several leaders across the world condemned the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was detained by police on Sunday night as soon as he landed in Moscow for the first time after being treated in Germany for poisoning. Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) said that the opposition leader has been arrested over his failure to report to them as per the terms of a suspended sentence and probation period.
Navalny has been at the forefront of the anti-corruption struggle in Russia and has organised several demonstrations in the past against President Vladimir Putin and his political allies. The 44-year-old Kremlin critic has been jailed several times over various charges, including embezzlement and holding unauthorised protests, which the Russian leader has repeatedly denounced as politically motivated.
Here’s how the world reacted over Navalny’s arrest:
The outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo said that the detention was the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures who are critical of Russian authorities. The top US diplomat urged the Russian government to provide a “level playing field” for candidates seeking to compete in the electoral process.
“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor commit violence against or wrongfully detain political opponents,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor for president-elect Biden, called for the immediate release of Navalny, demanding that the perpetrators of the poison attack must be held accountable. Taking to Twitter, Sullivan said that the attacks on Navalny are not only a violation of human rights, but also an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday condemned Navalny’s “arbitrary” arrest and demanded his immediate release. According to news agency AFP, Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said that the Navalny’s arrest violates the principles of the rule of law.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas also called on Russian authorities to immediately release Navalny, denouncing the arrest as “utterly incomprehensible”. Maas told German public television that Navalny consciously chose to return to Russia because he feels the country is “his personal and political home”, adding that the obligations to civil liberties should also apply to the prominent critic of Putin.
Calling Navalny a victim of “despicable crime”, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that the arrest of the Russian leader was “appalling”. “Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil,” Raad said in a statement, referring to the poison attack on Navalny in which nerve agent from the Novichok group was used.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, condemned Navalny’s arrest and called on Russian authorities to immediately release him. She highlighted that the detention of political opponents is against Russia’s international commitments. “We also continue to expect a thorough and independent investigation on the attack on Alexei Navalny's life. We will monitor the situation closely," von der Leyen said in a statement. European Council president Charles Michel also made a similar appeal.