MOSCOW (AP) — Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s arrest as he arrived in Moscow after recovering from his poisoning with a nerve agent drew criticism from Western nations and calls for his release, with Germany’s foreign minister on Monday calling it “incomprehensible.”
Navalny was detained at passport control at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after flying in Sunday evening from Berlin, where he was treated following the poisoning in August that he blames on the Kremlin.
Navalny’s arrest adds another layer of tension to relations between Moscow and the West that have long been strained and were worsened by his poisoning.
Navalny’s detention at passport control in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport was widely expected because Russia’s prisons service said he had violated parole terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 embezzlement conviction.
A Russian judge has now ruled that he must serve 30 days in jail.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas noted that Navalny had returned of his own volition and said “it is completely incomprehensible that he was detained by Russian authorities immediately after his arrival.”
Перед задержанием Навальный попрощался с женой.
Видео: "Дождь" pic.twitter.com/YCbIl8PWzd
— Ilya Varlamov (@varlamov) January 17, 2021
“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 added. “These principles must of course also be applied to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately.”
“It is impossible what is happening over here,” Navalny said in video from the improvised court room, posted on his page in the messaging app Telegram. “It is lawlessness of the highest degree.”
Calls for Navalny’s immediate release have also come from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and top officials of other EU nations.
U.S. 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 U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the U.S. “strongly condemns” the decision to arrest Navalny.
Deeply troubled by Russia's decision to arrest Aleksey Navalny. Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor see the need to commit violence against or wrongfully detain, political opponents.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 18, 2021