Russia violates its human rights commitments, says Czech foreign minister

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By violently suppressing opposition and freedom of speech, Russia is violating its commitment to human rights, stated Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček in response to the intervention of Russian security forces during demonstrations for the liberation of opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

According to Petříček, the European Union will discuss this issue, and Czechia will support sanctions against some individuals under the new EU sanction system.

Security forces detained more than 4,000 demonstrators, according to the OVD-Info server, which monitors police activities. If confirmed, it will be higher than the number of detainees in similarly targeted demonstrations last Saturday, when police detained more than 3,500 people across Russia. At the time, the AFP agency spoke of the most intense arrests in the country’s recent history. Among the detainees is Navalny’s wife, Julia.

After the previous protest, Petříček announced that he would want an explanation from the Russian ambassador to the Czech Republic, Alexander Zmeyevsky, about the detention of Navalny and the violent suppression of demonstrations.

Petříček was in quarantine due to a coronavirus infection, but he intends to resolve the situation with the ambassador next week, he told the Czech News Agency.

Navalny was detained by the police on Jan. 17, right after his return from Germany, where he was being treated for poisoning with a nerve-paralytic substance. The opposition blames the Russian Secret Service and President Vladimir Putin for the attack. The court rejected Navalny’s appeal against detention this week, in which the Kremlin’s main critic is now waiting to be sent to prison for allegedly violating the rules of a previously suspended sentence.

EU foreign ministers met last Monday but did not agree to punish Russian officials responsible for the incarceration. Some countries wanted to give priority to negotiations with the Russian leadership. Therefore, the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, will go to Moscow in early February to appeal for the release of the opposition leader.

After the meeting, which he was unable to attend due to coronavirus, Petříček said that he expected that if the matter could not be resolved through negotiations, the EU would return to the debate on sanctions.

“The European Union should take advantage of the pressure that its economic power allows,” he wrote at the time.

Title image: Police detain a man during a protest against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Siberian city of Omsk, Russia, on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021. 

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