US demands Russia free Navalny ‘immediately and unconditionally’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday condemned a Russian court’s jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as a violation of his rights and demanded his release.

“We reiterate our call 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,” Blinken said in a statement.

Describing the United States as “deeply concerned,” Blinken said that Navalny was entitled to rights under the Russian constitution and said Moscow “has international obligations to respect equality before the law and the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

In a sign of close allied coordination, the statement was similar to one issued by Britain, also moments after the court decision in Moscow that Navalny would spend time in prison.

Navalny returned to Moscow last month after recovering from what doctors described as poisoning, motivating thousands to come to the streets in support as he alleged corruption by President Vladimir Putin.

“Even as we work with Russia to advance US interests, we will coordinate closely with our allies and partners to hold Russia accountable for failing to uphold the rights of its citizens,” Blinken said, as President Joe Biden prepares to extend the New START nuclear reduction treaty with Moscow.

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