Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny arrested on return to Russia after nerve agent poisoning – BBC News
Experts: the international community should impose sanctions on the President of the Russian Federation
On Monday, January 18, a judge of the Khimki City Court sent Russian positioner Alexei Navalny into custody for 30 days, less than 24 hours after his arrival in Russia. The court session was hastily held at the police station, where he was brought after being detained at the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport upon his return from Germany..
Western states and the UN called on Russia to immediately release the opposition politician. The unconditional release of Navalny was demanded by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, noting that his detention “is the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices criticizing the Russian authorities.” Jake Sullivan, nominated by US President-elect Joe Biden as National Security Advisor, said that “the Kremlin’s attacks on Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an insult to Russians who want their voices to be heard.”.
A number of US lawmakers also demanded the release of the Russian opposition politician. Senator Bernie Sanders stressed that the United States must support those who fight corruption and work for democracy around the world, and Senator Chris Van Hollen looked forward to working with the Biden administration to combat human rights and democratic rights abuses, including with regards to the arrest of Alexei Navalny.
In an interview with the Russian Service of the Voice of America, American experts and lawmakers note that the return of Alexei Navalny was a bold step, but it was also dictated by the presence of the opposition’s support among Russians. Nevertheless, experts fear that the Kremlin may resort to extremely cynical actions, as it seriously fears Navalny’s influence, especially in light of the upcoming Duma elections. The trial itself is nothing more than a farce, and the pressure on the Russian authorities from the international community should increase..
David Kramer: Russian lawsuit turned into a circus
Former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights in the George W. Bush administration, now a fellow at Florida International University, David J. Kramer, Florida International University, believes that the arrest of Alexei Navalny is a milestone when the international community should seriously think about imposing sanctions not only on officials in the Russian government or the near-Kremlin elites, but also on the President of the Russian Federation himself.
“It’s time for Putin himself to feel the pressure of the sanctions and realize that there are consequences for what he allows, if not directly giving orders and condoning the egregious actions that we continue to see from Russia,” says a former senior official..
“Of course, new sanctions should be imposed quickly, which, however, will be a little difficult, at least in the United States, given that we will have a new president in two days. But the EU should not waste time, and sanctions should be aimed at the very top, ”he adds..
The expert calls the arrest of the Russian oppositionist “a disgusting abuse of power by Russian officials,” and the trial itself is a farce: “Navalny has already experienced enough, he has already been poisoned by Putin’s agents. And yet we see that he is being detained and, perhaps, not only endangering his health, given the situation with the pandemic in Russia, but also completely turning the Russian lawsuit into a circus. “.
David Kramer also expresses fears that the position of Alexei Navalny, especially in light of the September elections to the State Duma, remains very difficult: “They want to keep Navalny out of Russian politics as much as possible. They are so afraid of him that Peskov and Putin do not even mention his name. And now that he is no longer a “Berlin patient,” I wonder what they will call him. “.
“This regime is afraid of its own shadow and, of course, is afraid of Navalny, any criticism and opposition. He will do everything he can to silence Navalny, and I hope that this will meet with strong opposition [from society], ”he adds. – Whatever you think about Navalny’s policy, whether you support him or not, if you are a Russian, then you must admire his courage and his bravery in order to come back like this and find yourself in a situation that, as he knew, would not be good for him “.
Mark Simakovski: now we need to criticize the actions of the Russian authorities
Washington-based Atlantic Council expert Mark Simakovsky (Atlantic Council), who previously held a number of senior positions in the US Department of Defense, notes that the return of Alexei Navalny could be a planned political step.
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“Navalny made the brave and difficult decision to return to Russia so quickly after his poisoning and treatment in Germany. I think he had no illusion that he would be arrested upon arrival in the country. So, in a sense, this is what he was waiting for and, perhaps, planned, – the expert of the “Atlantic Council” believes. – He, of course, wanted to return home, but this was also a political aspect. It seems to me that his return to Russia is calculated not only to increase his support in terms of political ambitions, but also to undermine the growing authoritarianism of the Kremlin. “.
“Now we need to criticize the actions of the Russian authorities,” adds Simakovsky, stressing that the poisoning of Navalny must be investigated by the American authorities, and the United States must continue to support democracy and freedom of speech in Russia. “I welcome the tough statement from Secretary of State Pompeo, although, to be honest, the American administration should have taken a harder line when Navalny was poisoned.”.
David Sutter: Russian authorities have not yet made a final decision on Navalny
Hudson Institute senior expert David Satter (Hudson Institute) believes that the Russian authorities have not yet made a final decision on how to deal with Alexei Navalny. However, most likely, the Kremlin, which is clearly afraid of the opposition leader, will act absolutely unceremoniously, the expert fears.
“They are, of course, pondering how best to neutralize him. And they have such a lack of respect for the Russian people that they are ready to act as straightforward as possible, not even hiding their intentions. Any objective observer inside Russia understands that they are afraid of Navalny, that they want to silence him and they do not care at all by what means this happens. The main thing for them is to achieve the goal, and the way they will look into the eyes of their own people is secondary. Like the opinion of the rest of the world, ”Sutter said..
“Anything is possible, absolutely any scenario,” he adds. “If they were ready to kill him by poisoning, then now that he is completely under their control, they can come up with anything. He is now protected by the position of the world community and, in a sense, by the mood of Russians who are beginning to understand what is happening. However, his protection from illegal actions is extremely minimal. They demonstrated, both in the case of the murder of Boris Nemtsov and in the case of the poisoning of Navalny himself, that they are ready to kill their opponents. “.
In order for Alexei Navalny to remain alive and free, maximum pressure should be exerted on the Kremlin economically and diplomatically, the expert also emphasizes. At the same time, he also advocates that the president of Russia should also fall under the sanctions: “Putin personally should have come under sanctions even after the murder of Boris Nemtsov, since all the evidence indicates that it was carried out by the presidential security service, and not by some Chechen debt knockers “.
Congressman Bill Keating: I hope the Russian government will heed the calls of the world community
Bill Keating, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and Environment, Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts, believes that Alexei Navalny might not have returned to Russia if he did not believe that the majority of Russians also wants to change the country.
“I think it is important to admit that Navalny would not have returned, would not have put himself in this position, if he had not known that he has support among the Russians. Russians who want a more transparent government, who are unhappy with corruption and hope for better economic times. So I think Navalny came back and showed such tremendous courage, because most Russians hold the same beliefs about a better life, less corruption and more freedom, “the congressman said..
The American lawmaker hopes that the Russian government will heed global calls for the release of Navalny, but admits that outside pressure in such situations is limited..
“Historically, this has been challenging. If we talk about the American Paul Whelan, then he is being held by the Russian government and was convicted at the trial, which has become a farce. And he is in a Russian prison for what he did not do. It’s hard to apply pressure. I think we must first unite internationally in our comments and statements, what we believe in. President-elect Biden’s new national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has already made clear the position of the new administration, which will come to power on Wednesday. It is worth noting the statements already made by the European community, ”the congressman notes..
“I hope that the Russian government will listen, and I hope that we will remain united,” he adds, stressing that Alexei Navalny’s step not only demanded great courage from him, but also became, in a certain sense, an inspiration for everyone who goes on personal risks for the sake of “a cause greater than yourself”.
Voice of America journalist. Prior to that, she worked for international non-governmental organizations in Washington and London, in the Russian-language version of the Estonian daily newspaper “Postimees” and as a spokesman for the Estonian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Interests – international relations, politics, economics
Author and presenter of the Nedelya program. Since 2016 – a correspondent for the Russian Service of the Voice of America in Washington, in international journalism since 2004. Former employee of the Moscow bureau of the BBC. Graduated from the Faculty of Journalism, Moscow State University. Main areas of activity – politics, sports, culture, social networks
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