Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia say they want EU foreign ministers to discuss sanctions against Russia over its handling of Alexey Navalny’s case.
The Kremlin has said it would not take into account calls by some Western countries to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the detention of opposition politician Alexey Navalny, saying his case was purely a domestic matter.
Navalny, who has urged Russians to take to the streets in protest, was detained on Sunday after he flew back to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned with a nerve agent last summer and taken into pre-trial detention for 30 days.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have said they want European Union foreign ministers to discuss sanctions against Russia over its handling of the case.
Navalny is due in court on Wednesday on separate charges of defaming a World War II veteran, his lawyer said.
The Investigative Committee, which probes major crimes, opened a probe into Navalny for libel in June for "discrediting the honour and dignity" of the veteran.
The Investigative Committee said at the time that the veteran had spoken out in a promotional video in favour of constitutional amendments passed last summer that allow President Vladimir Putin to remain in office until 2036.
Navalny posted the video on Twitter, calling the veteran and others featured in it "the shame of the country," "people without a conscience" and "traitors".
#Russia's "wrongful & cruel" arrest of @Navalny "can be only seen as the Kremlin’s latest attempt to silence a prominent political opponent ahead of parliamentary elections in September."— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) January 19, 2021
Human Rights Watch: https://t.co/IPrIF7Pc8u pic.twitter.com/G26GjT8YxQ
Warning against protests
Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Navalny's calls for Russians to take to the streets over his detention were alarming, but said the Kremlin did not fear mass protests.
Peskov also said that Navalny had genuine questions to answer about violating his parole conditions for a suspended prison sentence and dismissed as nonsense the notion that President Vladimir Putin fears him.
"We hear these statements. We cannot and are not going to take these statements into account," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists, in the Kremlin's first reaction to Navalny's arrest on Sunday when he flew back to Russia from Germany.
Australia is concerned by the arrest of Alexei @Navalny upon his return to Russia. We stand with partners in calling on Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny immediately.— Marise Payne (@MarisePayne) January 19, 2021
A month in jail
A Russian judge on Monday ordered opposition leader jailed for 30 days, after the leading Kremlin critic returned to Russia from Germany.
The ruling followed a hastily set up court hearing at a police precinct where Navalny was being held since his arrest at a Moscow airport on Sunday evening, which sparked sharp reactions both at home and around the world.
A crowd of Navalny supporters outside the precinct shouted “Shame!” as the judge announced the ruling and Navalny's allies immediately called for protests.
On February 2, a court will begin hearing whether Navalny should see real prison time for his 2014 suspended sentence of 3 years and 6 months.
Navalny and his supporters say both cases are politically motivated.
His arrest had already prompted a wave of criticism from US and European officials, adding to existing tensions between Russia and the West.