Senator Roger Wicker: The arrest of Navalny is the work of Vladimir Putin
Putin calls protests demanding Navalny’s release dangerous as Moscow residents condemn arrests
US Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Calls For Personal Sanctions Against Those Who Persecute Russian Oppositionist
Arrest by a Russian court of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who on the eve of returning to Russia after being treated in Germany for poisoning «Newbie», provoked an angry reaction from many American politicians and officials.
Among those who expressed their outrage at the persecution by the Russian authorities of a fighter against corruption, who, according to an independent investigation, was almost killed by the country’s special services using a chemical warfare agent – United States Helsinki Commission Co-Chair, Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker.
An American politician who often criticizes the Russian authorities at the international level (the US Helsinki Commission represents the United States in the OSCE) in an interview with the Russian Service «Voices of America» placed personal responsibility for the repression against Navalny on Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
«Voice of America»: What was your reaction to the fact that Alexei Navalny was almost immediately detained upon arrival in Moscow by Russian security forces?
Roger Wicker: Navalny must be released immediately. His arrest – this is the handiwork of Vladimir Putin, it is undoubtedly. The same Putin who killed Sergei Magnitsky, who himself or through his minions killed Boris Nemtsov, who was holding Mikhail Khodorkovsky in prison, and who twice hounded Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. This is the work of the Russian dictator, and our answer – this is his international condemnation. It is already being heard all over the world. We must also make our sanctions work, we must continue to prohibit Mr. Putin and his government from using our banking and transport systems, we must also speak out loudly about this..
«G.A.»: Experts from many countries have confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with chemical weapons from the family «Newbie». As far as is known, such actions are internationally responsible. – there is the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Russia has signed and ratified. What is the possibility that for this action the United States will impose additional sanctions against Russia?
RU.: I hope so. The possibility of introducing new sanctions exists. A new administration will start working the day after tomorrow, and I hope that the new staff of the State Department and the executive branch as a whole will be persistent in this area. But in general, I would like to say this: what happens is not something that is unchanging, that will go on forever. I refuse to accept that this kind of totalitarian rule is invariable in Russia. Just as freedom came to Eastern Europe, in particular to Poland, so it will come to Russia as well. And we just have to keep striving for it. We speak out in support of the Russian people and Russian dissidents. The way Mr. Putin and his judges, all his power, have acted in the last day, has made Navalny a world famous. It was impossible to do more to ensure that Navalny became a popular freedom fighter in his own country. That is, what the Russian authorities have done is counterproductive for them. But we need to remain firm in the conviction that such restrictions on freedom cannot last forever..
«G.A.»: Western countries may now seriously intensify criticism of Russia, and its relations with Western democracies will be even cooler – according to the latest reports, Germany has suspended permission to continue work on «Nord Stream 2». What leverage does the United States have??
RU.: I think we should use all the sanctions that have already been adopted, and if in past years we imposed sanctions against the country as a whole, I think in this case it will be more important and effective to use personal sanctions against those who violate human rights. The use of such sanctions is now available, and I think that the staff of the Department of State will study this. About «Nord Stream 2» – we have also expressed great concern about this project, and the news that the government of Angela Merkel has taken such a step looks encouraging. I hope that other decision-makers in countries that respect human rights and the rule of law will also take concrete action..
«G.A.»: On the day Alexei Navalny was arrested, the United States celebrated Martin Luther King Commemoration Day. The imprisonment of a well-known Russian opposition leader on such a day looks especially contrasted, doesn’t it??
RU.: Yes, on this day we celebrate the merits of a man like Martin Luther King. As we remember, he stood up to fight for the rights of people exactly where he did not have the support of local authorities and the police. Now his name is glorified throughout our country. And this is really an opportunity to compare directions and see the contrast between where our society has developed over the decades and the path to greater authoritarianism and less freedom in Russia. Thank you and your organization for this opportunity to speak out publicly in support of those who themselves support freedom..