Australia joins calls for Navalny release

Daniel McCulloch
·1-min read

Australia has joined international allies in demanding the immediate release of anti-corruption blogger and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from detention in Russia.

A Russian court has jailed Navalny for two years and eight months for alleged parole violations after returning from Germany, where he had been recovering from being poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was deeply concerned by Navalny's arrest and sentencing.

His alleged parole violations stemmed from a suspended sentence in 2014 over embezzlement charges Navalny has always insisted were trumped up.

Senator Payne noted the European Court of Human Rights had found the 2014 conviction was unlawful and politically motivated.

"We call for Mr Navalny's immediate and unconditional release," she said on Wednesday.

"Australia is also concerned by the approach of Russian authorities against peaceful protesters and journalists detained in recent weeks. We call for their release without delay.

"Australia supports all peoples' right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly."

Senator Payne reaffirmed calls for Russia to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into Navalny's poisoning using the banned Novichok nerve agent last August.

The United States, Britain and Germany have all urged Moscow to free Navalny, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Washington would coordinate with allies to hold Russia accountable.