Alexey Navalny returned to Russia on January 17. He was detained upon arrival at the Sheremetyevo Airport. A court arrested Navalny for 30 days. All this was expected, as the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishments earlier promised to detain Navalny for failing to appear at the meeting of the criminal executive committee as a probationer.
The reaction from Western states followed immediately, which was also expected, even though, as one shall assume, Western officials knew that Alexey Navalny could be detained immediately upon his arrival in Russia from Germany.
Amnesty International was the first to react to the news about Navalny's detention. Literally a few minutes after the announcement of Navalny's arrest, a large message was published on the official website of the organization condemning the move of the Russian authorities and calling Navalny a prisoner of conscience. The promptness of the publication and the size of the text indicate that it was prepared in advance.
Among Western politicians, President of the European Council Charles Michel was the first to respond. He called Navalny's detention unacceptable and called for his immediate release.
Foreign ministers of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia released their joint statement afterwards. They also stated the inadmissibility of Navalny's detention and proclaimed the need for immediate release. In addition, they threatened to raise the question of the introduction of EU's new restrictive measures against Russia in the event the Russian authorities ignore their appeals.
In the United States, Jake Sullivan, adviser to US President-elect Joe Biden, was quick to respond to the news from Russia:
"Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable. The Kremlin's attacks on Mr. Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard," Sullivan tweeted.
A little bit later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also condemned the detention of Navalny and demanded his "immediate and unconditional release."
Similar statements were subsequently made by the heads of foreign affairs departments of Canada, Germany, France and a number of other states. Obviously, such a reaction was to be expected as well.
Maria Zakharova, the official spokesperson for Russia's Ministry for Foreign Affairs advised foreign states should tackle their own problems.
"What I would like to say to Mr. Sullivan (as well as many other foreign officials who publish pre-prepared comments): respect international law, do not encroach on the national legislation of sovereign states and deal with the problems of your own countries," she wrote on Facebook.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, commenting on the appeals from Western politicians for Alexey Navalny's immediate release, said that they were diverting public attention from the crises in which their countries find themselves:
"We can see how they now cling to yesterday's news about Navalny's return to the Russian Federation and happily send in their comments that all look the same.They are happy to do it because, apparently, it allows Western politicians to think that they will be able to divert public attention from the deepest crisis, in which the liberal model of development has found itself."
It is obvious that the development of the story with Alexey Navalny will lead to yet another round of tensions in relations between Russia and the West.
Sanctions are very likely to follow, and the United States will be a lot quicker at this point after Joe Biden takes office as President.
On January 17, Navalny returned to Russia from Germany. The plane, on which he was returning from Berlin, was supposed to land at Moscow's Vnukovo International Airport, but the airport was closed for aircraft because of the crowd that gathered there to welcome Navalny home. After the plane landed at the airport terminal, Navalny was detained by FSIN employees (Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia).
On December 29, Alexey Navalny was put on the federal wanted list for repeated violations of the terms of his probationary period in connection with the Yves Rocher case. On the evening of January 17, the Federal Penitentiary Service announced that Navalny would be kept in custody until the decision of the court, which is to take place on January 29. The trial took place right in the building of the II Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the city district of Khimki, where the politician has been kept after his detention at the airport.
Ivan Zhdanov, the director of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK), which Navalny founded, was very surprised about the news of the court hearing taking place directly at the police station.
"I have never heard of such a thing in legal practice," Ivan Zhdanov said.
Representatives of the Ministry for Internal Affairs said that Navalny had not had his COVID test ready. Therefore, the meeting to apply the measure of restraint was held at the police office in Khimki (a Moscow suburban town). Journalists and relatives were not allowed to the meeting "for reasons of sanitary safety."
At least 69 people were detained in Moscow and St. Petersburg on the day of Alexey Navalny's return to Russia, of which 62 were detained in Moscow, OVD-Info reports. The detainees were charged with articles on disobedience to police officers, violation of the high alert regime and participation in an uncoordinated action that caused interference in the infrastructure.