MOSCOW – The Kremlin said Tuesday it hopes the fate of jailed opposition figure Alexei Navalny (picture), whose arrest sparked large-scale protests and Western condemnation, would not affect Russia’s ties with Europe.
A judge in Moscow is expected on Tuesday to decide whether Navalny should be imprisoned for violating the terms of a suspended sentence he was given on embezzlement charges in 2014.
“We hope that such nonsense as linking the prospects of Russia-EU relations with the resident of a detention centre will not happen,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The court hearing and Peskov’s comments come days ahead of a visit to the Russian capital by the European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
The Spanish diplomat is expected to raise Navalny’s detention during talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday.
Peskov said that Moscow was looking forward to the meeting with Borrell as an opportunity to repair ties with Europe that were “undeservedly and unjustifiably” icy.
He added that while Moscow was “ready to do everything” to develop ties with the EU, the Kremlin was “not ready to listen to advice” on the issue of Navalny.
Earlier this week, an EU spokesman said the bloc was in touch with Navalny’s team over a possible meeting.
Peskov said only investigators and judges would be able to approve talks between the visiting diplomats and the opposition leader.
“They are not relatives or acquaintances. So what is the reason for such a visit?” Peskov said.
Borrell has come under pressure from some EU capitals to scrap the trip to Moscow — the first for Brussels’ top envoy since 2017 — for fear it could hand the Kremlin a propaganda coup.