Why did Russia arrest Alexei Navalny

International protest against the arrest of Nawalny

Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for the immediate release of the Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny, who was arrested in Russia on Sunday. "After his recovery, Alexei Navalny made a conscious decision to return to Russia because he sees his personal and political home there. The fact that he was arrested by the Russian authorities immediately upon arrival is completely incomprehensible," said Maas in Berlin. Russia was bound by its own constitution and international obligations to the rule of law and the protection of civil rights. "These principles must of course also apply to Alexei Navalny. He should be released immediately," emphasized the SPD politician. The 44-year-old was said to have been the victim of a serious poison attack on Russian soil. Maas: "We still expect Russia to do everything it can to fully investigate this attack and to bring the perpetrators to justice."

Spontaneous court proceedings: "peak of lawlessness"

Navalny himself described the crackdown on him as "the height of lawlessness". He will be tried in an impromptu trial in an improvised courtroom outside Moscow. The Russian authorities had "torn up and thrown away the code of criminal procedure," he said in a video published by his supporters on Twitter.

The lawyers of the opposition activist arrested in Moscow are not allowed to see him. According to Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmytsch, two advisors were allowed to enter the building of the Khimki police station on the outskirts of Moscow, "but they are not allowed to see Alexei."

EU Council leader Charles Michel also called for the Kremlin critic to be released immediately. Josep Borrell, the EU foreign affairs representative, joined him. He wrote that political instrumentalization of the judiciary was not acceptable.

France also tried to put pressure on the Kremlin. Navalny must be released immediately, said the Foreign Ministry in Paris. And the outgoing US administration in Washington also found clear words. "The United States strongly condemns Russia's decision to arrest Alexei Navalny," said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Navalny's arrest is the latest attempt by Russia to "silence opposition and independent voices critical of the Russian authorities".

The new administration in Washington sees it no differently. President-elect Joe Biden, National Security Advisor-designate, said: "Mr. Navalny should be released immediately and those responsible for the heinous attack on his life must be held accountable," said Jake Sullivan. "The Kremlin's attacks on Mr Navalny are not only a violation of human rights, but also an affront to Russian citizens who want their voices to be heard."

   

The Kremlin will reject such statements as interference in internal affairs. The protests by human rights activists should also come as no surprise to the Russian leadership. For example, the human rights organization Amnesty International has denounced the move by the Russian security authorities as unlawful. The detention of the Kremlin critic immediately after his arrival in Moscow is further evidence that the Russian authorities wanted to silence him, according to an Amnesty statement.

The investigation is pending

Furthermore, it is essential to investigate Nawalny's allegation that he was poisoned five months ago in Siberia by state agents on the orders of the highest authorities. At the same time, Amnesty demanded that all supporters and journalists arrested on Sunday at Moscow's Vnukovo airport also be released immediately. Criticism also came from the Greens in the Bundestag. The parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt wrote on Twitter: "The Kremlin clearly shows again how it deals with opposition members and wants to intimidate critics by all means." The 44-year-old had been advertised for a search, the prison system said as a justification. There is talk of a violation of probation conditions.

Navalny with his family during treatment at the Berlin Charité

Navalny was the victim of a poison attack in Siberia in August. He was flown to Germany and treated at the Berlin Charité. Navalny accuses the Russian secret service of being behind his poisoning. The Russian government denies any involvement in the attack. Observers of what is happening in Moscow expect Navalny - free or not - to become increasingly a challenge for President Vladimir Putin.

ml / haz / kle (dpa, rtr, afp)