Arrest of Nalvany: the gradual indignation of Europeans

The Baltic States call for sanctions against Moscow without delay. Paris and Berlin demand the release of the opponent to the Kremlin.

Correspondent in Brussels

It is a new provocation addressed to Europeans and perhaps even more to Germany which, in recent months, had welcomed and treated the Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny, victim of poisoning in Novichok. Unsurprisingly, his arrest on Sunday, when he had just set foot in Russia, sparked a wave of protest in Europe. But it should be noted that indignation within the EU is variable geometry.

It was in the eastern part of the Continent – where we never cease to worry about crushing attacks and the aggressiveness of the Kremlin – that the reactions were strongest and fastest. The Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – were the first to be outraged by the voice of Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis. These three Member States have denounced detention “Totally unacceptable”. « The EU must act quickly and if it is not released, we must consider imposing restrictive measures in response to this act », They threatened.

An unequivocal answer

The same concerns on the part of the countries of central and eastern Europe united in the Visegrad Club, with the notorious exception of Hungary which continues to spare Moscow. ” This arrest is another attempt to intimidate the democratic opposition in Russia. A swift and unequivocal response at EU level is essential. Respect for civil rights is the cornerstone of democracy. I call on the Russian authorities to immediately release the detainee Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki tweeted.

On the side of the European institutions, the reactions were also strong. Starting with that of the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. His short message posted on Twitter on Sunday evening does not suffer the slightest ambiguity. ” The detention of Alexey Navalny upon his arrival in Moscow is unacceptable. I call on the Russian authorities to release him immediately », He warns.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, took over on Monday morning. ” I condemn the detention of Alexey Navalny yesterday by the Russian authorities, upon his return to Russia, she said in a statement. The Russian authorities must release him immediately and ensure his safety. Detention of political opponents is contrary to Russia’s international commitments ».

“The European Union should target the money, the oligarchs, not just the former oligarchs. “

Alexei Navalny

These positions contrast with that of Berlin, which has shown itself to be more measured when Germany no longer exercises the rotating presidency of the EU since December 31. Navalny ” should be released immediately German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas reacted, thus using the conditional. ” Russia is bound by its own constitution and international obligations towards the rule of law and the protection of civil rights “, He also recalled.

In Paris too, the reaction seems, at this stage, to fall short. The spokesperson for the Quai d’Orsay reported on Sunday evening his ” very strong concern “, Calling for” immediate release From Navalny. A reaction on behalf of the Twenty-Seven, being prepared by the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrel, was to be broadcast in the early afternoon.

EU foreign ministers had long planned to meet next Monday. There is little doubt that the new Russian provocation and how to react to it will be on the agenda. Could the Europeans take new sanctions against Moscow? In mid-October, they had decided to target seven Russian officials – including businessman Yevgeny Prigogine, close to Vladimir Putin – and a scientific laboratory, all considered to be involved in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

Obviously, these sanctions have not had the desired effect. This was anticipated by the Russian opponent during an exchange at the end of November with the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. “The European Union should target the money, the oligarchs, not just the old oligarchs, but the new ones, members of Putin’s inner circle“, He said then, stressing that”As long as Mr. (Alicher) Ousmanov’s yachts continue to anchor in Barcelona or Monaco, no one in Russia or the Kremlin will take European sanctions seriously».

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