February 3, 2021 4:56:01 pm
Australia on Wednesday became the latest to join the international community in demanding an immediate release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her country is deeply concerned by the 44-year-old’s arrest and sentencing.
“We call for Mr Navalny’s immediate and unconditional release,” she said in a statement.
Payne also raised concerns over the Kremlin’s treatment of peaceful protesters and journalists who have been detained over the last few weeks.
On Tuesday, Navalny was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in a penal colony for violating probation terms, although he will only serve two years and eight months due to time already spent under house arrest. The outspoken Kremlin critic called the trial an attempt to “intimidate” the public.
Shortly after the verdict was announced, leaders from different parts of the world issued statements condemning the sentence.
Germany: Verdict a ‘bitter blow’ for freedoms
German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the court’s decision as lawless and demanded an end to violence against peaceful protesters in Russia.
“The verdict against Alexei Navalny is far from any rule of law standards. Navalny must be released at once,” Merkel was quoted as saying in a tweet by her spokesman.
“Violence against peaceful demonstrators must stop,” she stressed.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called the ruling a “bitter blow against fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Russia.”
Ruling is ‘pure cowardice,’ says UK
In a tweet, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also called for Navalny’s release and dubbed the ruling as “pure cowardice”, adding that it failed to meet “the most basic standards of justice.”
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab issued a statement saying that the “perverse ruling, targeting the victim of a poisoning rather than those responsible, shows Russia is failing to meet the most basic commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said the Kremlin dissident’s jailing was unacceptable.
“A political disagreement is never a crime. We call for his immediate release. The respect for human rights such as democratic freedom are not negotiable,” he said.
European Council President Charles Michel said that the EU will not accept the ruling.
“We do not accept his sentence — justice must not be politicized. Protesters have the right to demonstrate peacefully and voice their political views,” Michel said on Twitter.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russia to release Navalny and his supporters.
“We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly,” he said.
Russia lashes out at criticism
In a statement to RBC news channel, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, issued a scathing response to the growing international criticism by asking countries to not meddle in the Kremlin’s internal affairs.
“For the last few weeks we have been in a state of comments. And responses to similar attacks and statements,” she said. “You should not interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. And we recommend that everyone deal with their own problems … There are alot of problems in these countries, there is work to be done.”
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