The State Department called on Russia to release imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny on Saturday, the two-year anniversary of him being poisoned with a nerve agent.
The department said in a statement that Russian government officers attempted to assassinate Navalny with the nerve agent in Russian territory. Navalny traveled to Germany to receive medical treatment, but he was arrested when he returned to Russia in January 2021 on what the department said were politically motivated charges.
“We again condemn Russia’s use of a chemical weapon to poison a political opponent, and call on the Kremlin to fully declare and dismantle its chemical weapons program,” the statement reads. “We also join Navalny’s family, colleagues, and supporters around the world in calling for his immediate release.”
Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in August 2020. Human rights experts and much of the international community have said that the Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin are responsible for ordering the attack, as has Navalny himself, but the Russian government has denied being involved.
Thousands of Russian citizens have been arrested over the past two years while participating in protests in support of the imprisoned Russian opposition leader.
Russia has continued to go after Navalny since he was imprisoned. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison after returning to Russia for violating his parole and sentenced to nine years in March after being convicted on fraud charges.
Russia labeled him as “inclined to commit crimes of a terrorist or extremist nature” in October, and his appeal of the label was denied in June. He has also been charged with creating an extremist group with the purpose of inciting hatred toward “officials and oligarchs” and could face an additional 15 years in prison.
Navalny’s spokesperson said in June that he had been relocated from the prison he had been at to an unknown location.
The State Department said Russia has escalated its crackdown on dissent and independent media through censorship laws since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. It said the Russian government is trying to prevent its people from knowing about the “atrocities” that its soldiers are committing against Ukrainian civilians and “needless” Russian military casualties.
The department said it reaffirms its solidarity with Navalny and other political prisoners in Russia and the thousands of Russians who “confront the Kremlin’s lies with truth.”
Source: The Hill