European countries summon Russian diplomats over Navalny death

European countries summon Russian diplomats over Navalny death
European countries summon Russian diplomats over Navalny death

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Candles burn as people attend a vigil following the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, at the Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower in Paris February 19, 2024. — Reuters pic

PARIS, Feb 20 — A host of European governments yesterday summoned Russian diplomats following the prison death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said during a visit to Argentina that Russia’s ambassador in Paris would be summoned, while Norway’s foreign ministry issued a statement that it was calling on its top Russian diplomat “for a talk” about Navalny’s death.

“In the conversation, Norwegian views will be conveyed about Russian authorities’ responsibility for the death and for facilitating a transparent investigation,” Norway said, adding that the meeting had not yet taken place but would shortly.

It followed similar announcements earlier yesterday by Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands saying they have summoned diplomats from Russian embassies. London had done the same Friday evening.

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Navalny’s death in a remote prison in the Arctic, where the 47-year-old was serving a 19-year sentence after surviving a 2020 poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin, was announced Friday.

“The regime of Vladimir Putin has once again shown its true nature,” France’s Sejourne said yesterday.

Western countries have unanimously pointed blame at the Russian authorities for his death, three years into his sentence, which deprives the opposition of its most prominent figure a month ahead of presidential elections that are expected to enhance Putin’s firm grip on power.

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Finland’s foreign ministry on X, formerly Twitter, called for Russia “to release all political prisoners” while confirming it had called on the ambassador yesterday.

“It is terrible that Alexei Navalny has paid the ultimate price for his fight for a free and democratic Russia,” Hanke Bruins Slot, the Netherlands’ foreign affairs minister, posted on X. “We strongly urge Russia to release Navalny’s body to his family and relatives.”

Earlier yesterday, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said in a statement he had summoned Russia’s ambassador, and called for the European Union to consider “a new sanctions regime targeting the internal repression in Russia.”

On Friday, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Madrid “demands that the circumstances” of the death be clarified. — AFP

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