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Navalny sentenced to prison for several years. Europeans criticize the verdict and Putin

(B2) After the announcement of a substantial prison sentence for the Russian political opponent, reactions are raining. Unacceptable, grotesque, surprising, dubious, cynical, perverse… we find the whole range of words

Navalny's denunciation of Putin's Palace, in a video viewed more than 100 million times, has quite annoyed the Kremlin (credit: YouTube Navalny)

If several countries are asking for the return to the policy of sanctions (Estonia, Latvia, Czechia, Lithuania…), it is not the majority. In other countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands…), we feel that the condemnation is firm, but remains polite.

NB: The Moscow court revoked, this Tuesday (2.02), for violation of his conditional, the suspension of the prison sentence of 3 and a half years, pronounced on December 30, 2014. Alexei Navalny was prosecuted, he and his brother Oleg , as part of the management of the Russian subsidiary of the French company Yves Rocher, for 'money laundering'. A case considered arbitrary by the European Court of Human Rights. By removing the months already spent under house arrest, he will therefore have to serve the rest of his sentence in prison, i.e. 2 years and 8 months. Hence the figures varying according to the reactions.

Comments : What seems certain today is that A. Navalny has become a political prisoner, a mythical figure of Russia, like Solzhenitsyn before him. " The figure of the Russian opposition according to the State Department. Unlike his eldest, Alexei's favorite mode of expression is not the book, but You Tube. The background remains the same. Opposition to authoritarian rule. V. Putin, so skillful ordinarily, may have made the mistake of his life by giving his opponent this stature.

Nb: unless otherwise specified, reactions come from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs

Emmanuel Macron (President, France) : " The conviction of Alexeï Navalny is unacceptable. A political disagreement is never a crime. We call for his immediate release. Respect for human rights and democratic freedom are non-negotiable..

Josep Borrell (head of European diplomacy): “ The conviction of Alexey Navalny goes contrary to international commitments of Russia in terms of the rule of law and fundamental freedoms. It goes against the verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, which found this case arbitrary and unreasonable. I demand his immediate release.

Ursula von der Leyen (President of the European Commission): “ I condemn the condemnation of Alexei Navalny in the strongest terms possible. I call on Russia to respect its international commitments and release him immediately and unconditionally. »

Heiko Maas (Germany) : " The verdict against Alexei Navalny is a blow to freedoms and the rule of law firmly rooted in Russia. The European Court of Human Rights already criticized this trial as arbitrary in 2017. Alexei Navalny must be released immediately. »

Dominic Raab (UK): « Today's perverse ruling by the Court shows that Russia is failing to live up to the most fundamental commitments expected of any responsible member of the international community. UK calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Navalny and all peaceful protesters and journalists arrested in the past two weeks. "(communicated)

US State Department: « Alexei Navalny enjoys the rights provided by the Russian constitution. We support the Russian people in exercising their rights under the Russian constitution. [...] While we work with Russia to advance U.S. interests, we will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for its breaches of the rights of its citizens. "(communicated)

Ekaterina Zaharieva (Bulgaria) : " The decision to imprison Navalny after being treated abroad following an attempted poisoning is completely unacceptable. We demand that the decisions of the ECHR be respected, the right to a fair trial is a fundamental human right that is undeniable.

Tomás Petricek : " A Verdict a little surprising with a clear motivation to silence the opposition. Czechia demands the immediate release of A. Navalny, it is an artificial process. Unfortunately, we know a number of them from our own history. The EU should return to the issue of sanctions »

Ivan Korcok (Slovakia): « Today's Moscow court ruling on Navalny raises doubts about the fairness of the trial and ignores the previous decision of the ECHR. We call on the Slovak authorities to respect human and political freedoms in Russia and its international commitments. »

Stef Blok (Netherlands): « Deeply Concerned by Navalny's conviction. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression and to a fair trial. We call on the Russian authorities to immediately release Navalny and all those detained during the protests over the past few weeks. »

Jeppe kofod (Denmark) : " Grotesque verdict against Navalny. [This goes against] the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights calling the case arbitrary and manifestly unreasonable. I demand his immediate release. We are still waiting for the Russian investigation into the poisoning of Navalny »

Kaja Kallas (Estonian Prime Minister) : “The conviction and imprisonment of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is cynical and has nothing to do with the rule of law. And all arrested peaceful protesters and journalists must be released immediately. The EU must act quickly and decisively to protect human rights.

Edgars Rinkēvičs (Latvia). " The decision to imprison Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny is both a appalling cynicism and a total disregard for the rule of law and international obligations by Russia. He must be released immediately. The EU must impose sanctions. The Council of Europe must act because this constitutes a violation of the judgment of the ECHR. »

Sanna Marin (Finnish Prime Minister): « The prison sentence imposed by the Commission is unacceptable. European Court of Human Rights rules Navalny's initial conviction was arbitrary and unreasonable.

Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs : " Slovenia is dismayed by the verdict against Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. We demand his immediate and unconditional release.

Farnesina (Italy). " We learn with consternation the news of Aleksey Navalny's sentencing to a long prison term. Italy expresses its deep concern at such developments, which run counter to the fundamental principles of democracy and the rule of law. »

Ann Linde (Sweden). " Alexey Navalny should be released, not imprisoned. The opposition in Russia must not be silenced. Russia is bound by international obligations to respect human rights. Just like in today's trial, Swedish diplomats will continue to watch. They will discuss the response with EU partners.

Zbigniev Rau (Poland). " Alexei Navalny became a victim of political persecution which violates the fundamental principles of the rule of law. I call on the Russian authorities to release Mr. Navalny and to stop applying repressive measures against his supporters. »

Arancha González (Spain). " The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled on the case, calling it aarbitrary - Alexei Navalny must be released.

Gabrielius Landsbergis (Lithuanian Foreign Minister). " After a despicable condemnation of Alexei Navalny, the language of sanctions is the only one the EU should use with Russia. If the EU hesitates, Lithuania will impose national sanctions. »

(comment compiled by Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).