Russian dissident Alexei Navalny’s detention upon arrival at a Moscow airport is “further evidence that Russian authorities are seeking to silence him,” Amnesty International’s Moscow office director said late Sunday.
“His detention only highlights the need to investigate his allegations that he was poisoned by state agents acting on orders from the highest levels,” said Natalia Zviagina.
The Kremlin critic was travelling home after spending five months in Germany, where he received emergency medical treatment following his poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok.
The 44-year-old was detained while going through passport control and is to be remanded in custody until a court decision, with a trial scheduled for January 29.
Russian authorities accuse Navalny of breaking the terms of a suspended sentence and probation. Corrections authorities are therefore seeking to transfer those into a jail sentence.
“The authorities handled Aleksei Navalny’s arrival as a fully blown security operation with hundreds of police officers summoned to the Vnukovo Airport, arresting and pushing out Navalny’s supporters,” Zviagina said.
European Council President Charles Michel and EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell condemned the arrest and called on Russian authorities to release the dissident.
“The detainment of Alexey #Navalny upon arrival in Moscow is unacceptable,” Michel tweeted. “I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him.”
“Russian authorities must respect Alexei @navalny’s rights and release him immediately,” wrote Borrell. “Politicisation of the judiciary is unacceptable.”
The EU officials’ words were echoed by Baltic countries Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in a joint statement late on Sunday.
“Detaining Alexei Navalny by the Russian authorities is completely unacceptable. We demand his immediate release,” the statement by the three countries’ foreign ministers said, as they also called on the EU to “act swiftly and if he is not released, we need to consider imposition of restrictive measures in response to this blatant act.”