Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia are seen at the passport control point at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on January 17, 2021
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia at passport control at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, Jan. 17, 2021
Photo: AFP
 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia at passport control at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, Jan. 17, 2021

Detained Kremlin foe rushed to court as Moscow tells West to butt out

Alexei Navalny's arrest earns condemnation from Europe nations, UN and sparks fresh debates on imposing sanctions on Russia, specifically on a $11.6 billion project to build a natural gas pipeline to Germany

Reuters |
Published: 01.18.21 , 15:05
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was rushed to a Moscow court hearing inside a police station on Monday, a day after he was detained at an airport in the Russian capital when he flew home for the first time since he was poisoned last summer.
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  • The United Nations and Western nations told Russia to immediately free the opposition leader and some countries called for new sanctions. Moscow told them to mind their own business.
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     Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia are seen at the passport control point at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on January 17, 2021
     Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia are seen at the passport control point at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on January 17, 2021
    Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia at passport control at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, Jan. 17, 2021
    (Photo: AFP)
    Navalny, in a video from inside the police station, called the hearing "the highest degree of lawlessness" and lashed out at President Vladimir Putin, accusing him of throwing the criminal code out of the window in fear.
    The Kremlin was expected to comment on his case later on Monday, but usually refers questions about the 44-year-old politician to law enforcement agencies.
    Navalny's detention was ordered by Moscow's prison service in relation to alleged violations of a suspended prison sentence in an embezzlement case he says was trumped up.
    Monday's court hearing, parts of which were live streamed by Navalny's allies, may rule for him to be held in custody until a different court decides whether to convert that suspended 3.5 year sentence into real jail time.
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    Russian President Vladimir Putin
    Russian President Vladimir Putin
    Russian President Vladimir Putin
    (Photo: Reuters)
    Some of his allies said they feared the hearing might skip that interim stage and convert his suspended sentence itself.
    Four masked police officers detained Navalny at passport control on Sunday evening, the first time he had returned home after being poisoned by what German military tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent, a version of events the Kremlin rejects.
    The ruble weakened as investors weighed the risk of new sanctions against Moscow.
    Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia said they wanted the European Union's foreign ministers to discuss further sanctions against Russia on Monday for detaining Navalny.
    A possible target of any new penalties would be a $11.6 billion project to build a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.
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     Police officers patrol outside the police station where detained Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is held, in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia
     Police officers patrol outside the police station where detained Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is held, in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia
    Law enforcement officers patrol outside the Moscow police station where detained Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was being held
    (Photo: EPA)
    The foreign ministers of Germany, Britain, France and Italy had earlier called for Navalny's release and Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek had said he wanted the bloc to discuss possible sanctions.
    The UN human rights office called for Navalny's immediate release, saying it was "deeply troubled" by his arrest and demanding due process in line with the rule of law.
    The Russian Foreign Ministry brushed off the criticism.
    "Respect international law, do not encroach on national legislation of sovereign states and address problems in your own country," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook.
    Jake Sullivan, one of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden's top aides, told Moscow to free Navalny, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was deeply troubled by the arrest.
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    A woman holds a poster 'Freedom for Alexei Navalny' outside the police station where detained Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is held
    A woman holds a poster 'Freedom for Alexei Navalny' outside the police station where detained Russian opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny is held
    A woman holds a poster 'Freedom for Alexei Navalny' outside the police station where detained Russian opposition leader was being held
    (Photo: EPA)
    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Western countries' expressions of outrage over the detention were designed to distract their citizens from domestic problems and that Moscow was unfazed by potential damage to its image.
    "We should probably think about our image, but we're not young ladies going to a ball," Lavrov told reporters.
    Moscow residents interviewed by Reuters TV were divided on Navalny's detention, with some showing sympathy but others calling him foolish to come back.
    "He probably did the right thing and acted like a real man (by returning)," said one Muscovite, Yuri Elizarov.
    "But from a political viewpoint he didn't, because nothing is probably going to change here in the coming years."

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