Foreign minister joins Baltic colleagues in Josep Borrell Navalny appeal

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Alexei Navalny Source: Social Media

Outgoing foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) has joined his Latvian and Lithuanian opposite numbers in a joint statement issued to Josep Borrell, the European Union's high representative for foreign affairs and security, both thanking for his response to the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny Sunday evening, and calling for additional diplomatic measures.

The letter, signed by all three ministers, thanked Borrell for his swift response and coordination efforts to prepare a joint EU statement, Estonia's foreign ministry says.

The three ministers also called for additional diplomatic measures to increase pressure on Russian authorities for Navalny's release.

The ministers proposed raising the issue at the EU's Foreign Affairs Council next week, where the possibility of additional sanctions could also be discussed, they said.

Borrell has an official Moscow visit scheduled for early February, which could be postponed if Navalny remains incarcerated, the ministers added.

The address follows a joint statement from the three ministers Sunday evening, condemning Navalny's detention and calling for his "immediate release".

Navalny detained until February 15

Navalny was detained on landing at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Sunday evening after flying from Berlin, where he had been recuperating after collapsing on an internal flight in Siberia last August, following a suspected Novichok nerve agent poisoning. The flight which landed at Sheremetyevo had been diverted from Vnukovo airport, which was closed shortly ahead of the arrival of the plane carrying Navalny and his wife, possibly due to authorities' fears over the large number of his supporters who had reportedly congregated there to welcome him back.

It was the first time Navalny had visited Russia since going to Germany for treatment; authorities had warned he would be arrested on arrival, which he duly was. The opposition leader was denied the presence of his lawyer on first being arrested, and was taken for questioning.

A makeshift courtroom at a Moscow police station has been hearing Navlany's case, with the latter live-video-linking to the room.

A judge has ordered his detention to February 15, for violating parole, with the next hearing due on January 29. Navalny, who has called the proceedings a "mockery of justice", had a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence to his name dating back to 2014, for alleged embezzlement – charges which Navalny says are politically motivated – and which may be converted to real jail time.

The EU and the UK imposed sanctions on six senior Russian officials and a state chemical center following August's poisoning, which the Kremlin denies any involvement in. Estonia condemned the incident at the UN Security Council, where it holds a non-permanent seat for 2020-2021.

The elections to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian Federation's legislature, take place later this year.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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