ZBARAZH, Ukraine 一The G7 countries along with the European Union are demanding the release of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny who was sentenced by a Moscow court to two years, eight months jail on Tuesday.
“We, the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America and the High Representative of the European Union, are united in condemning the politically motivated arrest and detention of Alexei Navalny,” said an official statement released Jan. 26.
The Kremlin saw this as an intrusion into their inner politics and an “unfriendly action.”
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuffed the G7 demand the following day, saying the economic group didn’t have any grounds to interfere in Russian events, especially after it “irrevocably lost its authority on the international affairs…”
Navalny was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in Russia in August 2020, apparently by agents from an elite unit within the Russian Federal Security Service, formally known as the KGB. Russian denies the accusation.
But the critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin was airlifted to Germany for treatment. While recovering, Navalny and his team started working on a documentary movie about Putin called “Putin’s Palace.”
Navalny returned to Russia after medical treatment and was immediately arrested on Jan. 17, 2021. Two days later the film was uploaded on the opposition’s YouTube channel, and within a week it reached nearly 100 million views.
“Navalny, of course, is an incredible phenomenon, “ Peter Solomon, a politics professor at the University of Toronto, said. ”He has developed his audience [with anti] corruption activity. But I still think, the poll of people, from who the protesters come in Russia is much smaller [than in Belarus],” he said.
Navalny called people to the streets on Jan. 23 to protest against government corruption and abuse of authority. Protesters from more than 100 cities peacefully demanded Navalny’s release.
But they were confronted by police and more than 3,000 people were arrested, with more injured.
Support for Navalny has been building in Russia since Saturday, with the Union of Film Directors announcing their support and demanding his release.
Solomon said while more than 50 per cent of the population continue to support Putin, the highest level of dissatisfaction comes from the intelligentsia and young people.
“At the days when protests are planned children must be in school, and it doesn’t matter whether it is Saturday or Sunday,” said Anastasia Yartseva, a recent Humber graduate from the law clerk program
Yartseva, who is now visiting her family in Krasnodar, nearly 13,000 kilometres south of Moscow, said the government is trying to crack down on youths attending protests by forcing them to be school while they take place.
She said if they don’t attend class they must provide an explanation of where they were and why.
European and American politicians argued with the Kremlin’s decision and called for new sanctions against Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cut off three television channels owned by pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk at about 11 p.m. on Tuesday following a meeting of the National Security Council.