EU weighs response to Navalny arrest, protest crackdown

BRUSSELS (AP) – European Union (EU) foreign ministers yesterday debated the 27-nation bloc’s response to the arrest of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and a weekend police crackdown that saw thousands taken into custody during protests in support of President Vladimir Putin’s most well-known critic.

“This wave of detention is something that worries us a lot, as well as the detention of Mr Navalny,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he arrived to chair the ministerial meeting in Brussels. More than 3,500 people were reportedly taken into custody during the nationwide protests.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “under the Russian constitution, everyone in Russia has the right to express their opinion and to demonstrate. That must be possible. The principles of the rule of law must apply there, too – Russia has always committed itself to that.”

He and other ministers called for the immediate release of the protesters.

Riot police detain a demonstrator in Pushkin square in Moscow, Russia. PHOTO: AP