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Central European leaders condemn Navalny arrest in Moscow


Warsaw, Poland – Central European leaders have condemned the arrest of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny in Moscow on Sunday.

Top opposition leader and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexei Navalny was arrested on Sunday at passport control after flying back to Moscow from Berlin, where he had been recovering from an assassination attempt with the Novichok nerve agent last August.

Initially due to land at Moscow’s Vnukova airport, his plane was diverted at the last minute to Sheremetyevo after a crowd of supporters gathered to greet him.

Russian authorities accuse him of breaking the terms of his parole for failing to meet his parole officer in December, while he was still recovering in Germany. The anti-corruption blogger and activist faces up to 3,5 years in jail – possibly more if other charges are brought against him as expected – and has been put into pre-trial detention.

World leaders were quick to condemn the arrest of Navalny.

In the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Andrej Babis tweeted that his arrest “simply reinforces the feeling of [the] last few years, that Russia is getting further away from the fellowship of democratic states.”

Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek described his detention as a “politically motivated act” and said the issue should be discussed during the next EU council of foreign ministers.

In neighbouring Slovakia, President Zuzana Caputova expressed hopes that Navalny’s detention “will not break those in Russia who believe in freedom”. Slovak Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok noted that Navalny’s “place is in a free and safe political competition and not in custody”.

Polish head of state Andrzej Duda, for his part, called for “international solidarity” in this situation and urged the international community to take the appropriate actions towards Russia.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for a “swift and decisive response at the EU level”, describing the arrest of Putin’s long-time foe as “another attempt to intimidate the democratic opposition” in Russia.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has cultivated close ties with the Kremlin in recent years, was the only V4 leader not to have issued a statement at the time of writing.