RFE/RL: Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) major industrial nations have condemned Russia for the “politically motivated” detention of Kremlin critic Aleksei Navalny and the “violent suppression” of protesters demanding his release over the weekend. In a joint statement on January 26, the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States called Navalny’s detention “deplorable” and demanded his “immediate and unconditional release.” “Russia is bound by its national and international obligations to respect and ensure human rights,” they said. Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent in August he accuses Putin of ordering. Navalny faces up to a 3 1/2 year sentence if convicted for violating a suspended sentence from a 2014 embezzlement case that Europe’s top human rights court deemed illegal. Russian prosecutors appear to be claiming that the terms of the sentence were broken when Navalny was flown out of the country on an emergency air ambulance to be treated for the nerve-agent attack.
RSF: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for new European Union sanctions against Russian officials after more than 50 journalists were arbitrarily arrested – some briefly and some for several hours – during an unusually extensive and heavy-handed crackdown on media covering demonstrations in support of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny in 17 Russian cities on 23 January. The extraordinary figure of more than 50 arrests of reporters, some of whom were subjected to police violence, is based on data compiled by the specialised news website OVD-Info, the Russian Journalists and Media Workers Union (JMWU) and information gathered directly by RSF. “The police deliberately targeted certain media, going so far as to try to enter a private apartment, to cut off a video feed of the demonstrations, and in a sign of the totally disproportionate nature of the crackdown, even clearly-identified reporters wearing ‘press’ vests or armbands were held for several hours,” said Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.
FIDH: FIDH strongly condemns the crackdown following protest marches attended by hundreds of thousands of Russians on 23 January. Mass arbitrary detentions of peaceful demonstrators, who were protesting the detention of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and the arrest of Navalny and his staff are incompatible with respect for fundamental civil and political rights. FIDH urges Russia to liberate all peaceful protesters detained in connection with the protests and Navalny himself, drop all charges, and allow its citizens to freely exercise their fundamental rights. FIDH urges the European Union (EU) to adopt individual targeted sanctions against public officials involved in the January 23 crackdown, Navalny’s arbitrary detention, and other human rights violations. Between 250,000 and 300,000 individuals participated in the 23 January protests. Despite preemptive arrests of organisers of the marches, intimidation of and threats to likely protest participants, including students, individuals from 125 cities all across the country joined the protests.
CPJ: Russian authorities should allow journalists to cover protests freely and without fear, and refrain from attacking or detaining members of the press, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. On January 23, police in at least 20 cities throughout Russia detained, beat, and otherwise interfered with the work of at least 58 journalists, assaulting at least 8 and detaining at least 49, while they were covering protests in support of the opposition leader and anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, according to journalists who spoke to CPJ, news reports, and the Professional Union of Journalists and Media Workers, an independent trade group. Navalny’s supporters have called for more demonstrations on January 31 against his detention, according to news reports.