Von der Leyen condemns Navalny's detention and demands release

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday condemned the arrest of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny on Sunday when he arrived in Moscow, demanding his immediate release and "his security".

“I condemn the arrest of Alexei Navalny yesterday [Sunday] by the Russian authorities on his return to Russia. The Russian authorities must release him immediately and guarantee his safety ”, calls for the leader of the community executive in a statement released today.

Stressing that the European Commission will “monitor the situation closely”, Ursula von der Leyen underlines that “the arrest of political opponents is against Russia's international commitments”.

"We also continue to expect an exhaustive and independent investigation into the attack on the life of Alexei Navalny", the official adds, the day after the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, and the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, also had demanded the immediate release of the Russian opponent.

Russian prison services (FSIN) on Sunday arrested Russian opponent Alexei Navalny on arrival in Moscow, accusing him of violating the terms of a suspended prison sentence he was sentenced to in 2014.

In a statement, the FSIN said that Alexei Navalny, who returned to Russia on Sunday after several months of convalescence in Germany after an alleged poisoning with a neurotoxic agent, "will remain in detention until the court's decision" on his case, without specifying a date .

Leading opposition figure to the Kremlin (Russian Presidency), Navalny was questioned by the police on arrival at Moscow's Cheremetievo airport, when he was going through passport control.

Russian prison services said Navalny, 44, "is on a list of people wanted since December 29, 2020 for multiple violations of his probationary period."

Initially, the plane carrying Navalny was to land at Moscow's Vnoukovo airport, where dozens of supporters were awaiting it, who were being watched by riot police units.

However, the plans were changed and the device landed at Cheremetievo airport, also in the Russian capital.

The opposition leader returned to Russia after almost five months of medical treatment in Germany, after being poisoned with a toxic substance for military use, an act that, according to the activist, was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The arrest warrant issued on Sunday was put forward by the Federal Prison Service of Russia, which asked the Russian court for Alexei Navalny to go to prison to serve a suspended sentence of 3,5 years to which he was sentenced in 2014, a judgment considered “Arbitrary” in 2017 by the European Court of Human Rights.

On August 20, 2020, Navalny felt ill and passed out during a domestic flight in Russia, and was transported two days later in a coma to Germany for treatment.

Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, as well as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, demonstrated that he was exposed to a neurotoxic agent, like Novichok, from the Soviet era.

Russian authorities have rejected all charges of involvement in the poisoning.

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