President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US government has told Russia “there will be consequences” if Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny dies in prison.
“We have informed the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and that they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.
“In terms of the specific actions we would take, we are looking at a variety of different costs that we would impose and I will not be telegraphing this publicly at this point, but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies. “, he added.
A doctor from Navalny, who is in week three of a hunger strike, said his health is deteriorating rapidly and the 44-year-old could be on the verge of death.
Prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin began refusing food on March 31 to protest the lack of proper medical care for his leg and back.
“This latest threat from the United States aggravates other diplomatic problems that have fallen on the two countries,” Mike Hanna of Al Jazeera reported in Washington, DC, citing recent sanctions imposed by the United States on Russia.
On the question of what action the United States could take against Russia, Hanna said: “There may be measures like the expulsion of an ambassador. It would be an extreme diplomatic step taken by the US government.
The European Union declared on Sunday “deeply concerned” by the information concerning Navalny’s health and called for his “immediate and unconditional release”.
“The Russian authorities are responsible for the safety and health of Mr Navalny in the penal colony, for which we hold them responsible,” Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, said in a statement.
Deeply concerned about Alexei @navalnydeterioration of health. The Russian authorities must grant him immediate access to health professionals he trusts. We ask them to account for his safety and health.
The EU continues to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr Navalny. https://t.co/iwFV31Sdgi
– Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) April 18, 2021
The issue is on the agenda of a videoconference of EU foreign ministers to be held on Monday, Borrell said.
The Russian ambassador to London told the British BBC on Sunday that Navalny “will not be allowed to die in prison”.
“Of course he will not be allowed to die in prison, but I can say that Mr. Navalny is behaving like a thug,” Ambassador Andrei Kelin said.
“His public goal, all of this, is to get attention for him too – saying that his left hand is sick today. Tomorrow his leg is sick.
‘I can not wait anymore’
Navalny’s team called for protests across Russia on Wednesday evening, just hours after Putin was set to deliver a nationwide speech.
“It’s time to act. We’re not just talking about Navalny’s freedom, but his life, “Navalny’s right-hand man Leonid Volkov said on Facebook on Sunday.
Volkov said Wednesday’s rally could become a decisive battle against “absolute evil” or the last rally of the Russian opposition for years to come.
“Right now he’s being killed in a prison, and you can’t wait any longer.
“Use all your knowledge and meet in the central squares,” wrote Volkov, who heads the regional offices in Navalny, adding that the protests are expected to be massive.
There was no immediate comment from police or government officials about the call for protests.
Russian police detained thousands of people in January, as protesters took to the streets of the country to demand Navalny’s release.
Navalny was arrested on January 17 upon his return from Germany to Russia, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve poisoning he attributes to the Kremlin.
Russian officials have denied any involvement and even questioned whether Navalny had been poisoned, which has been confirmed by several European laboratories.
Navalny was ordered to serve two and a half years in prison on the grounds that his long recovery in Germany violated a suspended sentence imposed on him for fraud in a case which Navalny said was politically motivated.