On September 29, 2019, a file photo showed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny during a rally in support of political prisoners at Prospect Sakharova Street in Moscow, Russia. According to his press secretary, Alexei is unconscious at Navalny Hospital after allegedly being poisoned.
Cepha Caracan | Anadolu Agency via Getty Image
WASHINGTON – National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan of President-elect Joe Biden called for the immediate release of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who was detained Sunday when he arrived at an airport in Moscow.
Earlier on Sunday, Navalny flew from Berlin, Germany to Russia, where he spent nearly half a year since consuming poison in the summer of last year. He was arrested under passport control.
Last week, Russian authorities issued a warrant for Navalny’s arrest, claiming that he violated a three-and-a-half-year sentence suspended in 2014 for embezzlement charges.
Sullivan wrote on Twitter, “Mr. Navalny should be released immediately, and the perpetrators of the abusive attack on his life should be held accountable.”
The White House and the State Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
Sullivan’s call for Navalny’s release comes days before President Elect Joe Biden was sworn in. The incoming administration of Biden is expected to increase pressure on Russia.
In the wake of Navalny’s poisoning last year, Biden “worked with his colleagues and allies to blame the Putin regime for his crimes”, and accused President Donald Trump of not taking a strict enough stance.
A bipartisan group of US senators called on the Trump administration to ban Russia in response to the poisoning of Navalny. Trump, who stepped down on Wednesday, has not done so.
The United Kingdom and the European Union, close to American allies, moved swiftly to impose targeted sanctions on six Russians and a state research center in October.
Regarding the flight back to Moscow, Navalny told reporters that she loved it and made the trip home “the best moment in the last five months.”
According to a Reuters report, “I feel great. Eventually, I am returning to my home town.”
Last year, Navalny was taken medically from a Russian hospital to Germany, as reports came after he was ill that something had been added to his tea. Russian doctors treating Navalny denied that the Kremlin’s critic had been poisoned and blamed his comatose state on low blood sugar levels.
In September, the German government said the 44-year-old Russian dissident had been poisoned by a chemical nerve agent, providing “unequivocal evidence” to the toxicology report. The nerve agent family was in Novichok, which was developed by the Soviet Union.
On the heels of the test’s result, the White House said it was “deeply troubled” by the case and called the poisoning “completely malleable”.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the results released today,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Ulliott said in a written statement at the time. “Alexei Navalny’s toxicity is completely condemnable. Russia has used the chemical nerve agent Novichok in the past,” he said, referring to the toxicity of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in 2018.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the toxicity of navalny and scripal.
Navalny’s arrest is set to escalate tense relations between European leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday and the Kremlin works to secure Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline project in Germany.