Navalny ally says only ‘language of power’, sanctions can free critic
VILNIUS (LITHUANIA) – Ahead of a meeting with European policymakers in Brussels on Sunday, a close ally said that Russia would only think of releasing Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny if its leadership was slapped with painful personal curbs.
Foreign ministers of the European bloc are slated to agree on Monday to slap sanctions on allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin in response to the jailing of Navalny.
The critic was arrested last month after returning from Germany where he was flown for treatment for poisoning with a Soviet nerve agent. Navalny was imprisoned on February 2 for violating parole and lost an appeal on Saturday.
His chief of staff Leonid Volkov said on Saturday that he believes the critic would only be released by Putin if hit by sanctions.
“Putin is a dictator, but he is quite rational. If the upsides of having Navalny in prison become less than the downsides, he will change his decision,” said Volkov.
“If many of his closest allies become unhappy, this can be dangerous to Putin and this could lead him to decide to change his mind,” Volkov added. “Or maybe not – but sanctions is the best thing that Europe can do now.”
Volkov has been sheltered by Lithuania since 2019 and he said he would tell policymakers to resort to the “language of power” towards the Russian government.
When asked about Navalny’s political future after the court decision on Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “It is absolutely none of our business.”
Allies of the critic have prepared a list of 35 officials who have to be sanctioned.