The United States is deeply concerned by Russian authorities’ decision to sentence opposition figure Aleksey Navalny to two years and eight months in prison, replacing his suspended sentence with jail time. Like every Russian citizen, Mr. Navalny is entitled to the rights laid out in the Russian constitution, said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement. Moreover, Russia has international obligations to respect equality before the law and the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
During the hearing before his sentencing, Mr. Navalny made the point that, while authorities can lock him up, “Hundreds of thousands [of Russians] cannot be locked up. More and more people will recognize this. And when they recognize this — and that moment will come — all of this will fall apart, because you cannot lock up the whole country.”
Tens of thousands of Russian citizens in more than 120 cities and towns turned out each of the last two weekends to peacefully protest the arrest of opposition leader Alexsey Navalny, and to demand his release.
Secretary Blinken again called for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as the hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and of peaceful assembly.
The European Court of Human Rights concluded that Mr. Navalny’s 2014 conviction, the grounds for the new sentence, was “unlawful and arbitrary” and “politically motivated.” The current proceedings against Mr. Navalny, which began with his detention on January 17, are a continuation of efforts to violate Mr. Navalny’s rights and suppress political pluralism, as the European Court of Human Rights previously found.
“Even as we work with Russia to advance U.S. interests,” said Secretary Blinken, “we will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens.”