February 2, 2021 12:10:58 am
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.
It 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 blames President Vladimir Putin and the domestic secret service FSB.
Putin has denied any involvement.
Prosecutors agreed with Moscow prison officials that he has breached the terms of a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement and other charges.
Navalny’s legal team say that 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 three-and-a-half years for alleged parole violations.
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 peoplewho had braved the bitter cold and the threat of prosecution to demand he 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.
“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 Berlin to drop the project, France’s Secretary of State 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.”
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