European countries called on Russia to release opposition politician Alexey Navalny, who was arrested in the capital Moscow on Sunday upon his return from Germany.
President of EU Council Charles Michel called on Russia to "immediately" release Navalny.
“The detainment of Alexey #Navalny upon arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him,” said Michel on Twitter.
“It is appalling that Alexey Navalny, the victim of a despicable crime, has been detained by Russian authorities. He must be immediately released,” also said Dominic Raab, the British foreign secretary, on Twitter.
“Rather than persecuting Mr. Navalny Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil,” added Raab.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also in a statement called on Russia to release Navalny and said detainment of Navalny is “incomprehensible”.
“Russia is bound by its own constitution and by its international obligations to uphold the rule of law and protect civil rights. These principles must, of course, also be applied to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately,” said Maas.
“Navalny was the victim of a serious poisoning attack on Russian soil. We continue to expect Russia to do everything to fully investigate this attack and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he added.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also took to Twitter, saying: “Russian authorities must respect Alexei @navalny’s rights and release him immediately. Politicisation of the judiciary is unacceptable.”
“Deeply concerned by news that Alexei Navalny has been detained upon return to Moscow. Call on Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny. A healthy & vibrant opposition should be welcomed,” also said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Twitter.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide also expressed concern and called on Russia to “disclose the circumstances surrounding the poisoning of Navalny.”
In a joint statement, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania said detainment of Navalny is “completely unacceptable”, adding: “We demand his immediate release. EU should act swiftly and if he is not released, we need to consider imposition of restrictive measures in response to this blatant act.”
From across the Atlantic, Jake Sullivan, the US President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming national security advisor, also called on Russia to release Navalny.
“Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable. The Kremlin’s attacks on Mr. Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard,” said Sullivan on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a Facebook post called on countries that reacted to Navalny issue to respect international law, refrain from infringing on the laws of sovereign states.
"I would like to ask Mr. Sullivan and other foreign politicians posting canned statements - to respect international law, refrain from infringing on the laws of sovereign states and tackle their own countries’ issues," she said.
Navalny and his wife Yulia Navalnaya were originally scheduled to land at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport but the plane they were on board was diverted to Sheremetyevo airport and Navalny detained after passport control on Sunday evening.
Navalny, 44, a fierce critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, fell sick last August on a flight to Moscow. After an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, he spent two days in a Russian hospital before being sent to Germany for treatment.
After tests in several laboratories, German officials said Navalny was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent, which was also used, according to the UK government, in a 2018 attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the British town of Salisbury.
Russian authorities deny any involvement in the case and contend that chemical weapons are neither developed nor produced by Russia since the last chemical round was destroyed in 2017, as verified and certified by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.