The Kremlin has blasted what a spokesman called "aggressive and unconstructive rhetoric" after President Biden in a Thursday key foreign policy address from the State Department demanded the immediate release of dissident activist and politician Alexei Navalny.
Underscoring that Moscow will ignore and rebuff such measures to interfere in internal legal matters, the spokesman said Friday, "This is a very aggressive and unconstructive rhetoric, unfortunately," and added, "any hints of an ultimatum are absolutely unacceptable to us," according to TASS.
During the Thursday speech outlining his foreign policy vision, Biden said that "we will not hesitate to raise the costs on Russia" while specifically invoking Navalny by name, also pinpointing alleged Russian involvement in cyber attacks related to the SolarWinds breach.
Notably he also said the days of the United States "rolling over in the face of Russia’s aggressive action... are over" and demanded that Russian authorities release Navalny "immediately and without condition". Biden said Putin has "targeted" Navalny for "exposing corruption".
At a moment Russian opposition leaders are lobbying Washington for the targeted use of Magnitsky sanctions on Putin's inner circle, Biden actually mentioned the imprisoned opposition activist by name, something very significant.
On Tuesday a Moscow court sentenced Alexei Navalny to three-and-a-half years in prison for "unlawful conduct" stemming from probation violations related to a 2014 embezzlement conviction. It ends up being a little over 2.5 years given time already served previously under house arrest. Navalny and his supporters have called the proceedings a "shameless fabrication" of justice. For a couple weekends running his supporters have taken to the streets in what authorities have deemed 'illicit' demonstrations.
Navalny is back in court Friday where he faces separate charges. Specifically he's accused of "defaming a World War Two veteran" according to reports.
Pres. Biden speaks out against jailing of Alexey Navalny: ‘He’s been targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and without condition’ pic.twitter.com/qWpPBOPMKi— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 4, 2021
According to CNN this new case relates to "comments he made last June on social media. He had criticized a video by state media channel RT in which various people expressed support for controversial changes to the Russian constitution. Veteran Ignat Artemenko, 94, was among them."
More details on the case are as follows:
Last June, Russia’s Investigative Committee launched a probe into Navalny on charges of defamation, after the politician slammed people featured in a video promoting the constitutional reform that allowed an extension to President Vladimir Putin’s rule as "corrupt stooges," "people without conscience" and "traitors."
The authorities maintained that Navalny’s comments "denigrate (the) honor and dignity" of a World War II veteran featured in the video. If convicted, Navalny faces a fine or community service.
Also on Friday EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made a controversial trip to Russia to meet with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow. The trip has reportedly angered Navalny supporters. Despite Borrell previously condemning Navalny's arrest and court proceedings, he still made the trip with no pre-conditions.
"No more front-seat Maidan-style cheerleading & destabilizing games for y'all. Not here." https://t.co/8WQ0wRCQ33— Mark Sleboda (@MarkSleboda1) February 5, 2021
Opposition activists hoped that he would cancel the trip in protest, or at least make the Navalny affair the focus of his trip.