US joins G-7 in condemning Russia over ‘politically motivated’ arrest of Putin critic

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The Biden administration joined the foreign ministers of the Group of 7 (G-7) countries in a joint statement Tuesday condemning Russia’s arrest of Alexey Navalny and calling his detention politically motivated.

Navalny is a prominent anti-corruption activist and outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was arrested last week upon his return to Russia after recovering in Germany from an alleged assassination attempt in August when he was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

The more than 400-word statement by G-7 members offered a sharp rebuke of Russia’s human rights record. The group expressed deep concern over Russia’s detention of journalists and more than 3,000 demonstrators who took part in nationwide protests over the weekend against Navalny’s arrest.

“The violent suppression by police forces of the right of individuals to express their opinion is unacceptable,” the statement read. “These events confirm a continuous negative pattern of shrinking space for the opposition, civil society, human rights defenders and independent voices in Russia.”

Navalny was arrested on Jan. 17 upon arriving in Moscow from Germany, where he was recovering from the poisoning. German doctors and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined his near-fatal poisoning was caused by Novichok.

The State Department said last month that they believe Russia’s internal security service, the FSB, to be behind the attack on Navalny.

The Kremlin denies it was behind the poisoning and has said that Navalny’s emergency evacuation in August from Russia to Germany for treatment for the poisoning violated the terms of his parole stemming from a 2014 criminal conviction.

Navalny disputes the conviction as trumped-up charges.

The G-7 statement calls for Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release” and further urges Russia to launch an investigation into the use of Novichok and “credibly explain” the use of a chemical weapon on its soil.

“We reiterate that any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes international norms against the use of such weapons,” the statement read.

“The confirmed use of chemical weapons against an opposition politician, as well as Mr. Navalny’s latest detention further undermine democracy, independent voices, and political plurality in Russia.”

U.S. participation in the statement comes as the Biden administration is working with Russia to extend a critical nuclear arms treaty while also vowing to take a tougher stance toward Moscow on issues like its unprecedented hack into U.S. government agencies and private companies, election interference and reported bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

President Biden held a phone call with Putin on Tuesday, with the two discussing extending the nuclear arms treaty that is set to expire next week.

Biden also raised with Putin the issue of Navalny’s arrest and concerns over other activities including the SolarWinds hack and reports that Russia offered bounties on American soldiers in Afghanistan to the Taliban.

The U.S. joining in the G-7 statement also shows Biden’s commitment to working with allies on international affairs in contrast to the approach of former President Trump, who often acted without coordinating with Western democracies.

While the Trump administration imposed hundreds of sanctions over a range of Russian violations, the former president was often criticized as giving a free hand to Putin by failing to more forcefully condemn Moscow’s election interference and not raising the issue of the bounties in conversation with the Russian leader.

The G-7 is made up of the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom and includes the high representative of the European Union. Russia was kicked out of the organization, then the G-8, in 2014 over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

Updated at 2:36 p.m.

Tags Alexey Navalny Biden Chemical weapon Donald Trump G7 G7 Germany Moscow Poisoning Putin critic Russia Vladimir Putin
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