White House demands the 'unconditional release' of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny

The White House is demanding the unconditional release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny after a crackdown on peaceful protests over the weekend – and President Joe Biden said Monday he is ‘very concerned’ about Russia’s behavior. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called for the ‘immediate’ release of Navalny, who returned to his home country and is being held for 30 days after being poisoned with a chemical nerve agent.

‘These continued efforts to suppress Russia’s rights to peacefully protest and assemble, their freedom of expression, the arrest of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the crackdown on protests that followed are troubling indications of further restrictions on Russian civil society,’ said Psaki, echoing a State Department statement issued Saturday. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called for the 'immediate' release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny,

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday called for the ‘immediate’ release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny,

‘So I’ll just reiterate our call from here on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny,’ she added.  

Biden also spoke to the seriousness of the issue when asked about it by reporters Monday, and said tensions with Moscow would not keep the U.S. from tending its own interests like seeking an extension of the expiring New START agreement limiting strategic nuclear weapons. 

‘I find we can both operate in mutual self-interest of our countries as a New START agreement and make it clear to Russia that we are very concerned about their behavior – whether it’s Navalny, whether it’s the Solar Winds [government hack] or reports of bounties on the heads of Americans in Afghanistan. I have asked the agencies in question to do a thorough read for me on every one of those issues, to update me precisely where they are, and I will not hesitate to raise those issues with the Russians,’ Biden said. 

He did not reference Russian interference in U.S. elections, a subject Psaki raised hours earlier. 

Psaki said she expected new patterns from the Trump administration, and pointed to an intelligence review of what the U.S. considers a series of malign activities by Russia.  

‘The president reserves the right to respond in the time and manner of his choosing and I’m not going to take options off the table from here,’ she said.     

‘We also urge Russia to fully cooperate with the international community’s investigation into the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil,’ Psaki said, reading from a prepared statement from the podium of the White House briefing room.

She said Biden had sought a ‘full assessment’ over Russian activities, including the massive cyber breach, ‘Russian interference in the 2020 election, its use of chemical weapons against Alexei Navanly and the alleged bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.’

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2021, file photo, people clash with police during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia. Allies of Navalny are calling for new protests next weekend to demand his release, following a wave of demonstrations across the country that brought out tens of thousands in a defiant challenge to President Vladimir Putin

FILE – In this Jan. 23, 2021, file photo, people clash with police during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in St. Petersburg, Russia. Allies of Navalny are calling for new protests next weekend to demand his release, following a wave of demonstrations across the country that brought out tens of thousands in a defiant challenge to President Vladimir Putin

In this Jan. 23, 2021, file photo, police block a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Allies of Navalny are calling for new protests next weekend to demand his release, following a wave of demonstrations across the country that brought out tens of thousands in a defiant challenge to President Vladimir Putin

In this Jan. 23, 2021, file photo, police block a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Allies of Navalny are calling for new protests next weekend to demand his release, following a wave of demonstrations across the country that brought out tens of thousands in a defiant challenge to President Vladimir Putin

Law enforcement officers clash with participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow

Law enforcement officers clash with participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow

Vladimir Putin has been forced to deny owning a mega-palace on Russia's Black Sea coast after Alexei Navalny accused him of building it with cash embezzled from the Russian state

Vladimir Putin has been forced to deny owning a mega-palace on Russia’s Black Sea coast after Alexei Navalny accused him of building it with cash embezzled from the Russian state

Navalny released a lengthy investigation on his return to Russia which was filled with details about the palace (pictured) including floor plans and details of the interior

Navalny released a lengthy investigation on his return to Russia which was filled with details about the palace (pictured) including floor plans and details of the interior 

She at one point called it a 100-day review, then said she didn’t have a timeline for it.

Putin has denied Navlany’s claim that he owns an extravagant Black Sea palace. 

”Nothing that is listed there as my property belongs to me or my close relatives, and never did,’ Putin said during a video call with students on Monday. 

The charismatic 44-year-old anti-corruption campaigner had been in Germany recovering from what western governments said was an attempted assassination using Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent. 

Navalny accuses Putin of ordering his death at the hands of an FSB hit-squad. Russian denies the allegations. 

source: dailymail.co.uk