Russia says the West is using the “hype” around opposition figure Alexei Navalny as a pretext to impose new sanctions against Moscow, adding that the actions of Germany in particular prove that the case was a “planned provocation.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry made the remarks in a statement on Wednesday, which was issued on the first anniversary of Navalny being airlifted to Germany after allegedly falling ill on a domestic flight in Siberia.
“The actions taken by the German government and its allies over the past 12 months clearly indicate that a planned provocation was conducted against our country. It was aimed at discrediting the Russian Federation before the world community and harming its national interests,” the statement said.
The ministry further accused Western countries of trying to keep Navalny in the news in order to influence Russia’s upcoming parliamentary elections, due to be held in September.
The Russian statement also singled out Germany for “not missing a chance to use the hype around Navalny” as a pretext for “new attacks on us.”
Navalny was taken ill on a domestic flight on August 20, 2020. He was later transported to the German capital, where he was hospitalized with alleged poisoning. His aides, as well as the German government and some Western countries, claimed he had been poisoned before the domestic Russian flight, blaming Moscow.
Moscow has repeatedly rejected the allegations, saying the West is exploiting the case for political reasons and using it as a pretext to impose more sanctions against Russia.
Russian police detained Navalny on his return to Moscow from Germany on January 17 for breaking the terms of a 2014 suspended prison sentence. The Moscow City Court sentenced him to two years and eight months in prison for breaking the terms of that sentence.
His supporters have since held unauthorized protests to demand his release, despite restrictions in place over the COVID-19 pandemic. Western countries have openly meddled in the case by calling on Moscow to release Navalny and condemning the response to the protests.
Relations between Russia and the West have been highly strained, including over Ukraine, alleged cyber attacks, election interference, and Navalny’s saga. The United States and the European Union have used Navalny’s case to impose a wave of sanctions against Moscow over the past six years.