EU leaders and MEPs condemn Alexei Navalny arrest in Russia

The Russian opposition leader, who survived a Novichok poisoning attempt in August, was detained by Russian authorities on his return to Russia on Sunday.
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By Lorna Hutchinson

Lorna Hutchinson is Deputy Editor of The Parliament Magazine

18 Jan 2021

Navalny returned to Moscow on Sunday evening after spending the last five months recovering in Germany after he was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent.

He was detained moments after arriving back in his home country and EU leaders and policymakers widely denounced his arrest.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen urged Russian authorities to “immediately release him and ensure his safety.”

She added, “Detention of political opponents is against Russia’s international commitments. We also continue to expect a thorough and independent investigation on the attack on Alexei Navalny’s life. We will monitor the situation closely.”

European Council President Charles Michel said, “The detainment of Alexey Navalny upon arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on Russian authorities to immediately release him.”

European Parliament President David Sassoli called Navalny’s arrest in Moscow “an offence to the international community, to Europe that helped save his life.”

“Imprisoning a survivor of a state-sponsored assassination attempt is peak authoritarianism. Europe must act against sources of Russia's malign influence - money, disinformation, corruption - as well as sanction responsible individuals from the ruling regime” Michal Šimečka, Renew Europe

He added, “We ask the Russian authorities for his immediate release. We are ready to invite him to the European Parliament.”

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said, “Russian authorities must respect Alexei Navalny’s rights and release him immediately. Politicisation of the judiciary is unacceptable.”

EPP chairman Manfred Weber said, “After Putin’s regime failed to assassinate Alexei Navalny in August, we have good reason to fear for his life. We need full political pressure to guarantee his safety.”

Weber also called for an urgent debate on Navalny’s arrest in the European Parliament this week.

German Greens/EFA member Sergey Lagodinsky tweeted later on Monday morning, “Been confirmed: the plenary debate on Navalny will take place in the European Parliament tomorrow evening.”

Greens/EFA co-leader Ska Keller said simply, “Free Navalny immediately!”

“Detention of political opponents is against Russia’s international commitments. We also continue to expect a thorough and independent investigation on the attack on Alexei Navalny’s life”

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President

Renew Europe leader Dacian Cioloş said that Navalny's defiance and bravery was inspiring, adding, “I condemn his cowardly arrest.”

“Europe must do all it can to support democracy, by imposing costs on those who undermine human rights in Russia.”

Slovakian Renew Europe vice-president Michal Šimečka said, “Imprisoning a survivor of a state-sponsored assassination attempt is peak authoritarianism. Europe must act against sources of Russia's malign influence - money, disinformation, corruption - as well as sanction responsible individuals from the ruling regime.”

Fellow Renew Europe member Dragoș Tudorache said that Navalny's arrest is "more evidence that Russia remains unable to respect its citizens' fundamental rights," adding, “The Moscow regime is a danger to democracy and the future of Europe.”

Former Belgian Prime Minister and Renew Europe deputy Guy Verhofstadt called Navalny’s arrest “an outrage,” adding, “EU leaders have reacted, the US has condemned it, so did the UK and NGOs... In the quiet corner are Le Pen, Salvini, Orbán, Baudet, Wilders... Putin’s friends are no friends of freedom and democracy. Not in Russia, not in Europe!”

S&D Group leader Iratxe García Pérez said, “I condemn the detention of the opposition leader Alexei Navalny after landing in Moscow. The EU should closely follow the situation and its implications.”

“After Putin’s regime failed to assassinate Alexei Navalny in August, we have good reason to fear for his life. We need full political pressure to guarantee his safety” Manfred Weber, EPP chairman

Fellow S&D MEP Kati Piri said of Navalny, “what a brave man.” She added, “This shows the evilness and weakness of Putin’s regime. They couldn’t kill him, so now they arrest him.”

The ECR Party also strongly condemned Navalny’s arrest, saying in a statement, “He had just returned from Germany where he was undergoing treatment following an attack using the nerve agent Novichock. Independent investigations show that this cowardly and barbaric attack was carried out by the Russian secret services.”

“The arrest of Mr Navalny marks a further erosion of the opposition in the Russian Federation. Mr Navalny has long been a critic of the Kremlin and the current government in Russia - having stood up for the democratic opposition movement and against the illegal actions of Putin’s regime.”

ECR Party Secretary General Anna Fotyga said, “Mr Navalny’s only crime is to speak up for the people of Russia against an increasingly corrupt and authoritarian regime. He should be released without hesitation and the Kremlin leaders should face increased sanctions from the international community. Stopping Nord Stream-2 is just one of these possible steps.”

Belgian ECR deputy Assita Kanko said, “After being poisoned, now arrested. Perhaps Europe should seek to find the courage Navalny has to stand up to Russia. Whether that be on Ukraine, disinformation or their attempts to destabilise its region.”

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