European Union calls for Navalny’s immediate release

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European Union chiefs on Tuesday denounced Russia’s jailing of top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and called for him to be freed.

“I condemn the sentencing of Alexei Navalny in the strongest possible terms,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on Twitter.

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“I call on Russia to comply with its international commitments and release him immediately and unconditionally.”

European Council President Charles Michel tweeted: “We do not accept his sentence - justice must not be politicized. Protesters have the right to demonstrate peacefully and voice their political views.”

The bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote that the sentencing “runs counter (to) Russia’s international commitments on rule of law and fundamental freedoms”.

Borrell is set to visit Moscow Thursday and has pledged to deliver “clear messages” to Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov over the detention of Navalny and a widespread crackdown on protesters.

The Spanish diplomat had faced calls from some European capitals to reconsider the trip -- the first to Russia for a top envoy from Brussels since 2017 -- over fears it could deliver a propaganda coup for the Kremlin.

But a European diplomat told AFP there were no moves to scrap the visit and insisted it had now become even more important for the bloc to press home its message on protecting human rights.

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