EU calls on Russia to release Navalny one year after arrest

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The European Union (EU) on Monday called on Russia to release Alexey Navalny from prison, exactly one year after the opposition leader was imprisoned.

"Today marks one year since the arrest and imprisonment of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny upon his return to Russia from life-saving medical treatment in Berlin after an assassination attempt on the Russian territory," EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement.

"We reiterate our call on the Russian authorities for his immediate and unconditional release without further delay and to comply with the interim measure granted by the European Court of Human Rights with regard to the nature and extent of risk to Mr Navalny's life," Borrell added.

He noted that the EU has been outspoken in labeling Navalny's prosecution as "politically motivated."

Navalny was arrested in January 2021 when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had gone to recover after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in August 2020. Moscow alleged that by leaving Russia he had violated his parole from a previous conviction - one his allies said was also politically motivated - and sentenced him to 2 ½ years in prison.

The U.S. and other countries have blamed Russia for Navalny's poisoning, but the Kremlin has denied involvement.

The Investigative Committee of Russia levied new criminal charges against Navalny in August, accusing him of establishing a noncommercial organization that "infringes on people's rights." The committee said his foundation, which he has overseen with others since 2011, persuaded individuals to commit "unlawful acts" by encouraging Russians to take part in unauthorized rallies that January.

Borrell on Monday said the EU "deplore[s] that the Russian legal system continues to be instrumentalised against Mr Navalny, as he now faces new criminal charges."

"The EU continues to condemn in the strongest possible terms the attempt to assassinate Mr Navalny through poisoning using a military chemical nerve agent of the 'Novichok' group," Borrell said

"We call on the Russian Federation to investigate it in full transparency and without further delay, and to fully cooperate with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons," he added.

Borrell also condemned the "consistent disinformation campaign" targeting Navalny and his associates, which has been reportedly perpetrated by Russian state media. Russia has increased scrutiny on Navalny-connected entities in recent months, according to Reuters.

Borrell called for the "immediate and unconditional release" of Lilia Chanysheva, the former regional coordinator of "Navalny's headquarter" in the Russian city of Ufa, according to Amnesty International.

Navalny's daughter, Daria Navalnaya, accepted a top European Union human rights award on her father's behalf last month.