Brussels (Brussels Morning) France’s Foreign Minister,Jean-Yves Le Drian, has warned Russia that the EU will hold President Vladimir Putin and the country’s authorities responsible should prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny die in prison, promising that the bloc would impose new sanctions on Moscow, Reuters reported.
Navalny has been on hunger strike for the past three weeks in a Russian penal colony, while demanding that the authorities allow his doctors to visit him and treat his medical problems. He is growing weaker by the day and his allies say he is at risk of kidney failure or cardiac arrest.
Yesterday, Navalny’s supporters organised a wave of protests across Russia, despite the authorities heavy-handed clampdown of their previous rallies. More than 1,000 people were detained on Wednesday, many having been rounded up before the protests officially began, including two of Navalny’s close associates in Moscow.
“The situation with Alexei is indeed critical, and so we moved up the day of the mass protests”, Navalny ally Vladimir Ashurkov, executive director of Navalny’s non-profit Foundation for Fighting Corruption, declared. “Alexei’s health has sharply deteriorated, and he is in a rather critical condition. Doctors are saying that judging by his test [results], he should be admitted into intensive care”.
In an escalation of the crackdown on Navalny and his allies, the Moscow prosecutor’s office called for the courts to brand Navalny’s foundation an extremist organisation, making its members and donors liable to prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Speaking to French TV on Thursday, Le Drian condemned the Russian authorities’ actions as an “unbearable and relentless” attack on Navalny. “We will take the necessary sanctions and it will be the responsibility of Mr Putin and the Russian authorities. I hope we won’t go to that extreme”, the minister observed.