Dominic Rabb urges Russia to release jailed pro-Navalny protesters

31 January 2021, 23:23

Dominic Raab pressed Russia to release detained protesters
Dominic Raab pressed Russia to release detained protesters. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Dominic Raab has urged Russia to release supporters of Alexei Navalny who were "detained simply for expressing their dissent" in protests on Sunday.

The foreign secretary pressed Moscow to free its citizens after tens of thousands took part in a second week of demonstrations across the country in support of the jailed opposition leader.

Mr Raab condemned the "indiscriminate and arbitrary" arrests of more than 5,100 people on Sunday, including Yulia Navalny, the wife of Alexei.

Some of those taken into custody were beaten, according to a monitoring group, in what is the largest public display of discontent in Russia in years.

Ms Navalny was also among the 2,600 arrested last weekend, as protests erupted across more than 60 Russian cities.

Read more: Thousands arrested in second weekend of pro-Navalny protests

Mr Raab said: "We condemn the Russian authorities' indiscriminate and arbitrary arrest of peaceful protesters and journalists.

"The Russian Government must adhere to its international commitments to respect peaceful protest, and release citizens detained simply for expressing their dissent."

Mr Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics, was arrested on 17 January after returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin.

Russian authorities said the anti-corruption investigator's stay in Germany violated the terms of a suspended sentence in a criminal conviction in a case that Mr Navalny has claimed was illegitimate.

Read more: Britain calls for release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

People dance a circle dance during an unauthorized rally in Kaliningrad
People dance a circle dance during an unauthorized rally in Kaliningrad. Picture: PA
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in St Petersburg
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in St Petersburg. Picture: PA
Police clashed with protesters who have taken to the streets in their thousands
Police clashed with protesters who have taken to the streets in their thousands. Picture: PA

He is due to appear in court in early February to determine whether he will serve the three-and-a-half-year sentence in prison.

Meanwhile, the UK imposed sanctions on six Russians, including the director of the Federal Security Service, who the government holds responsible for the poisoning.

Mr Navalny's team urged his supporters to protest again in Moscow on Tuesday, when the opposition leader could be imprisoned for years during a court hearing.

This weekend, Russian police upped their efforts to stop the demonstrations, with Moscow's police force introducing unprecedented security measures in the city centre.

Several subway stations near the Kremlin were closed, busses cancelled and shops and restaurants told to close.

Those who have engaged in violence against the police could face up to 15 years in prison.

Novosibirsk in eastern Siberia saw one of the biggest rallies, with thousands marching across the city chanting "Putin, thief!" About 90 protesters were detained there.

The chants referred to a luxurious Black Sea estate reportedly built for Russian President Vladimir Putin that Mr Navalny's team have released a popular video about.

Mr Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin's side for a decade.

He has been jailed repeatedly in connection with protests and has twice been convicted of financial misdeeds in cases that he said were politically motivated.