International

Kremlin dismisses calls to free Navalny

The Kremlin on Tuesday dismissed Western demands to release Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, saying calls for mass protests over his arrest were “troubling”.

Legal pressure is ramping up against President Vladimir Putin’s best-known domestic critic, who is due in court on defamation charges on Wednesday, as his allies in Russia call for protests in Moscow this weekend.

Mr. Navalny, 44, was arrested on Sunday as he returned to Russia from Germany for the first time since he recovered from a near-fatal poisoning with the Soviet-designed Novichok nerve agent in August. Russia’s prison service said it had detained Mr. Navalny for violating the terms of a suspended sentence he was given in 2014 on fraud charges, which he says were politically motivated. A hastily organised court on Monday ordered that Mr. Navalny be jailed for 30 days, prompting his associates to call on Russians to take to the streets in central Moscow and march towards the Kremlin on Saturday.

‘Domestic affair’

The Kremlin said the calls to protest were “troubling”. “This is absolutely a domestic affair and we will not allow anyone to interfere in it,” said Mr. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The last time mass protests took place in Moscow was in the summer of 2019 when Mr. Navalny’s allies and a host of other opposition politicians were barred from balloting in local elections.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 4:26:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/kremlin-dismisses-calls-to-free-navalny/article33611837.ece

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