- The Foreign Ministers of Germany, France, and Poland called upon Russia to immediately release Navalny.
- Mr. Navalny was arrested at the airport immediately after landing in Moscow.
- Mr. Navalny had recovered in Germany from an attack with the neurotoxin Novichok, which was banned as a chemical weapon.
Following the arrest of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, upon his return to the country, several Western countries are now calling for his immediate, unconditional release. The Kremlin critic returned from Germany Sunday, where he had been undergoing treatment for poisoning.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that Mr. Navalny had returned of his own volition from Germany, and said “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,” Foreign Minister Maas added. “These principles must of course also be applied to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately.”
European Council President Charles Michel, on his part, took to Twitter. He stated that Mr. Navalny’s detention is “unacceptable,” and also called for his immediate release.
France’s foreign ministry and Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau have also called upon Russia to immediately release the firebrand Russian opposition politician.
“I express my solidarity with all Russian people who share the ideals of the detained Russian opposition leader,” Foreign Minister Rau said. “Alexey, don’t give up!”
Similar reactions have been echoed by senior officials from the United States. The incoming security advisor to Joe Biden, Jake Sullivan, announced on Twitter that Mr. Navalny should “be released immediately.”
He added that those responsible for Mr. Navalny’s poisoning would be held accountable. The outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also strongly condemned the arrest.
The human rights organization Amnesty International classified the prominent opponent of President Vladimir Putin as a political prisoner of Russia.
Delivered at the Airport
Mr. Navalny was arrested at the airport immediately after landing in Moscow. The 44 year-old was taken away at passport control. His wife, Julia, however, was let through.
The plane carrying Mr. Navalny, his wife, and several employees on board left Berlin on Sunday afternoon and landed in Moscow in the early evening. It was supposed to land at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, but was diverted on short notice. Numerous followers of Navalny had already gathered at Vnukovo, the actual destination to receive him.
According to a section of the media, there were several arrests. The emergency services pushed those waiting back. Among those arrested was Mr. Navalny’s close colleague, lawyer Lyubov Sobol.
The opposition leader had called on his supporters to meet him at the airport. The Moscow public prosecutor had warned against unauthorized rallies on the airport premises and threatened with consequences.
Navalny Accused of Violating Probation Requirements
Russia’s prison system had put Mr. Navalny on the wanted list, accusing him of having violated probation conditions in earlier criminal proceedings while he was in Germany. However, he took the risk and flew back to Russia.
Mr. Navalny had recovered in Germany from an attack with the neurotoxin Novichok, which was banned as a chemical weapon.
The attack took place on August 20 in the Siberian city of Tomsk. Mr. Navalny had repeatedly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his poisoning. The President, however, rejects the allegations.
Regardless of the danger to his life, Mr. Navalny declared several times that his place was in Russia and that he wanted to continue his fight against the “Putin system” there.