The EPP Group strongly condemns the arrest of Alexei Navalny upon his return to Moscow yesterday evening. The EPP Group was the first to request an urgent debate

in the European Parliament during this week's plenary debate.

"His arrest is unacceptable and we demand his immediate release. The Russian state is not above the law, as this arrest breaches the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights", said EPP Group Chairman Manfred Weber and EPP Group Vice-Chair Sandra Kalniete today.

A few months ago, the Russian authorities orchestrated a poisoning attempt on the life of Alexei Navalny, with a nerve agent from the Novichok group. Fortunately, that attempt to silence him was not successful. "Alexei Navalny is not the criminal, but those who act against him. His only offence is that he uncovers corruption, involving people close to the Russian authorities. He is one of the first politicians to pose a serious challenge to the Kremlin. He wants to give the Russian people political plurality and accountability of those in power", said Weber.

The European Union has already introduced sanctions against Russian officials in relation to the poisoning attempt. "In light of last night’s arrest, a revision of those sanctions should be considered. We recall in this context that as of December, the EU has the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime instrument, the so-called European Magnitsky Act, and will not hesitate to use it if necessary. The EPP Group will closely monitor developments following the arrest of Alexei Navalny and subsequent court cases, as well as his well-being, for which the Russian authorities are now solely responsible", said Kalniete.

"Alexei Navalny represents hope for those in Russia who believe in freedom and democracy. His work needs to be supported because Russia is not a unique country where freedom and democracy cannot take root", she concluded.

Photo by IlyaIsaev, Wikimedia commons.