Secretary of State Blinken condemns Russia for Navalny sentencing – CNBC

Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny takes part in a rally to mark the 5th anniversary of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov’s murder and to protest against proposed amendments to the country’s constitution, in Moscow, Russia February 29, 2020.

Shamil Zhumatov | Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the Russian government on Tuesday after Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny was sentenced to more than two years in prison.

The opposition leader’s arrest last month has sparked mass protests across Russia, leading to hundreds of his supporters getting thrown in jail.

“The United States is deeply concerned by Russia’s actions toward Aleksey Navalny. We reiterate our call for the Russian government to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Navalny, as well as hundreds of other Russian citizens wrongfully detained in recent weeks for exercising their rights,” Blinken said.

Navalny, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was arrested for parole violations on Jan. 17 upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he had been treated for a nerve agent poisoning that took place last August.

He was accused of failing to keep in contact with his parole officer during that time regarding a suspended sentence related to 2014 fraud charges. Navalny called the case politically motivated.

The opposition leader has accused Putin of ordering the poisoning with the nerve-agent Novichok, but the Kremlin has denied any involvement.

Last month, Blinken said that the Biden administration is reviewing other Russia-related issues including the hacking of SolarWinds, reports of bounties placed by Russia on American forces in Afghanistan, and potential election interference and will determine its response based on its findings.

CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.