William Paul Ellis | Staff Writer
Alexei Navalny, the leader of the Russia of the Future Party, who rose to prominence as an outspoken critic of President Vladmir Putin, was detained by Russian authorities after returning to Moscow on January 17.
Navalny’s return to his home country comes after a five-month stay in Germany where he received treatment after being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok. The chemical agent left Navalny in a medically induced coma. Novichok is the same chemical infamously used to poison former Russian spy turned double agent Sergei Skripal in 2018, according to NBC News. While many, including Navlany himself, believe the poisoning was done at the behest of President Putin, no official explanation has been offered.
Navalny’s arrest has sparked international outrage, with many prominent government officials criticizing the Kremlin’s relentless efforts to suppress critics. Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have called for European Union foriegn ministers to discuss enacting sanctions against Russia, according to Reuters. Furthermore, the foriegn ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy have called for Navaly’s release.
Outgoing United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that he was “deeply troubled by Russia’s decision to arrest Aleksey Navalny,” and commented in a separate statement that Navalny’s arrest was “the latest in a series of attempts to silence Navalny and other opposition figures and independent voices who are critical of Russian authorities.”
While the Kremlin has yet to offer a full explanation, Russian foriegn ministry officials have taken the opportunity to defend the decision while attempting to maintain an image of internal fairness and stability.
“We should probably think about our image, but we’re not young ladies going to a ball,” Russian Foriegn Minister Sergei Lavrov stated.
Foriegn Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova furthered these sentiments with a statement published on Facebook.
“Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country,” Zakharova wrote.
In a recorded statement targeted at his supporters, Navalny called for public protests for his release.
“They are afraid of you,” Navalny said. “I call on you to stop being silent, resist and take to the street. There are so many of us.”
Navalny is scheduled to appear in court on February 2, where a judge will decide if his original suspended sentence will be converted to three and a half years in prison.