Appeals fail Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, fueling more EU sanctions

Alexei Navalny was arrested last month upon returning to Russia from Germany, where he almost died from a nerve agent attack. The Kremlin carried out the attack, Navalny claims, an accusation the Kremlin vehemently denies. And it was Navalny’s poisoning that prevented him from returning to Russia to face charges stemming from a 2014 suspended sentence for embezzlement that required regular in-person check-ins. “The whole world knew where I was. Once I’d recovered, I bought a plane ticket and came home.” Navalny defended. 

Judge Dmitry Balashov rejected Navalny’s appeal, Saturday, February 20th, though he took six weeks off the courts’ nearly three-year sentence.  

Russia has dismissed Western criticisms of Navalny’s arrest and the treatment of protestors as international meddling, and is prepared to cut ties over any imposed sanctions stemming from this internal conflict. 

Tensions began last October when a weapons-grade nerve agent was brought into Germany to carry out an act of terror. EU imposed sanctions on Russian officials and a Russian chemical weapons research center, claiming they were directly involved in the attack. Since the initial sanctions, both sides have been expelling diplomats. 

European foreign ministers will meet on Monday to discuss imposing sanctions on Russia over the case. However, Germany will move forward with its Russia Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, a project that will depend on Russia supplying gas to Europe via Germany, despite the strong opposition by Poland and the Baltic states. 

U.S. President Joe Biden believes the pipeline is a “bad deal” for Europe, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. The U.S. has offered Europe exports of liquefied natural gas to reduce pipelined gas from Russia. 

Navalny’s ability to become a threat to Russia’s current ruling party enough to be targeted for assassination, survive, and inspire large-scale protests won’t be his only legacy. He’s now a reason, or excuse, to sanction Russia and disrupt relations, even as he sits behind bars with little contact to the outside world. 

Kristi Pelzel is a Senior White House correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Kristi also covers the US Department of State and the United Nations. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University.

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