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Germany demands Russia release Alexei Navalny

February 1, 2021

Germany has called for the release of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, after Russian prosecutors agreed with prison officials that the Kremlin critic breached the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence.

In this image taken from video released by Navalny Life YouTube channel, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks in a police station outside of Moscow on January 18
Alexei Navalny, the jailed Kremlin critic, could be handed a longer prison termImage: Navalny Life youtube channel via AP/picture alliance

Germany on Monday condemned violence against demonstrators in Russia after riot police broke up protests in support of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

A government spokeswoman said at a regular news conference the protesters and Navalny must be released.

The statement comes as Russian prosecutors backed a request to imprison the opposition leader.

Navalny is serving a 30-day stint in jail after being immediately arrested upon arrival in Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from a nerve agent attack.

The 44-year-old has blamed President Vladimir Putin and the domestic secret service FSB for the attack. Putin has denied any involvement.

Prosecutors agreed with Moscow prison officials that Navalny has breached the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement and other charges. Navalny's legal team has said the charges are trumped up and are simply a move to silence him.

A court will decide on Tuesday whether the opposition figure should serve up to 3 1/2 years for alleged parole violations.

Riot police officers detain a demonstrator during an unauthorised protest in support of the detained opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
Riot police detained demonstrators during Sunday's unauthorized protest in support of Navalny Image: Peter Kovalev/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

In a separate move, judges fined Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, 20,000 roubles ($265/€220) for taking part in unsanctioned protests on Sunday.

Riot police moved to break up demonstrations across Russia in support of Navalny. 

They detained more than 5,300 people who had braved the bitter cold and the threat of prosecution to demand that the opposition leader be set free.

Criticism from the US

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the treatment of peaceful protesters and journalists, and urged for Navalny to be released.

"The Russian government makes a big mistake if it believes that this is about us," he told NBC News. 

"It's about them. It's about the government. It's about the frustration that the Russian people have with corruption, with autocracy, and I think they need to look inward, not outward."

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday that Moscow would ignore Blinken’s comments or threats of possible fresh sanctions.possible fresh sanctions.

"We are not prepared to accept or heed American statements about this," said Peskov.

Ramifications for Baltic gas pipeline

On Monday,France urged Germany to scrap the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project with Russia in protest at Navalny's detention.

Asked specifically if France wanted Germany to drop the project, France's minister for European Affairs, Clement Beaune said: "Indeed, we have already said this."

Merkel's spokeswoman, however, said Monday that Germany had "not changed its basic position." 

jf/rt (dpa, Reuters)

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