The Kremlin insists that moves by the imprisoned opposition figure Alexey Navalny’s associates to ask for foreign pressure to seek his release from jail proves that he deserves to be labeled as a foreign agent.
Speaking to the press on Friday, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the latest tactic a “complete demonstration” of the fact that Navalny is linked to other countries. “It doesn’t even need any explanation,” he said.
On Thursday, Navalny’s key ally, Leonid Volkov, announced there would be no more protests in support of the activist until later this year. Large rallies were held around the country on January 23 and January 30, but falling attendances amid mass arrests and a heavy police crackdown has caused his team to reassess. Instead, he revealed they would be using international pressure as a means to get the opposition figure out of jail. “We’re opening a second front,” he said. “Foreign policy.”
In recent weeks, Navalny has received words of support from countries around the world. On Thursday, US President Joe Biden demanded the release of the activist “immediately and without condition,” calling his detention “politically motivated.”
“Mr. Navalny, like all Russian citizens, is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution,” Biden said, “He’s been targeted for exposing corruption.”
In response, Peskov dismissed the demand as “aggressive and unconstructive rhetoric,” calling any ultimatum from Washington “absolutely unacceptable.”
Navalny’s trial on Tuesday was attended by around 20 diplomats from nations across the world. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, attending the court case of a citizen of a third country is not common practice, as most diplomats would usually attend only to support their compatriots.
“Even if Westerners see Navalny as ‘theirs,’ he is a Russian citizen. This is no longer just an intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This is exposing the unsightly and illegal role of the collective West in their attempt to deter Russia.”