Saturday January 22, 2022

Kremlin dismisses calls to free Navalny

January 20, 2021

MOSCOW: The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed Western demands to release top opposition politician Alexei Navalny and criticised his calls for mass demonstrations.

Navalny was arrested Sunday as he arrived in Russia from Germany for the first time since he was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent in August and flown to Berlin in a coma. His dramatic arrest drew widespread Western condemnation, with the United States, the European Union, France and Canada all calling for his release. "We cannot and are not going to take these statements into account," President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

"This is absolutely a domestic affair and we will not allow anyone to interfere in it," he said. Peskov added that the Kremlin was concerned by Navalny’s calls for his supporters to stage mass protests during a hearing on Monday in which he was jailed for 30 days.

"These calls are troubling," Peskov said. "We are not a body that can assess this, but undoubtedly this could be grounds for analyses on the issue of calls for illegal actions," Peskov said.

Asked if the Kremlin was worried about large-scale protests, Peskov answered: "Absolutely not". Navalny’s allies called on Russians to gather in Moscow Saturday and march towards the Kremlin after the 44-year-old opposition politician was ordered held in custody until mid-February.

Navalny was moved Monday evening to Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina jail, one of the country’s best guarded detention centres. The leading Kremlin critic has repeatedly led large-scale street protests against Putin, most recently in the summer of 2019 when his allies were not allowed to take part in local elections.