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Biden raises concerns over Navalny and Russian 'aggression' in Ukraine in first phone call with Putin

The G7 group of nations also hit out at Navalny’s “politically motivated” detention in a statement today.

Image: Evan Vucci/PA Images

US PRESIDENT JOE Biden in his first phone call with Vladimir Putin since taking office raised concerns with the Kremlin leader over the poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Russian “aggression” against Ukraine, the White House said today.

Biden placed the call in order to discuss with Putin “our willingness to extend” for five years the New START nuclear weapons treaty, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

He also brought up “our strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression,” Psaki said.

Biden raised other “matters of concern, including the Solar Winds hack, reports of Russia placing bounties on United States soldiers in Afghanistan, interference in the 2020 election, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and treatment of peaceful protesters by Russian security forces.”

Psaki said Biden’s “intention was also to make clear that the United States will act firmly in defense of our national interests in response to malign actions by Russia.”

Navalny, 44, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on January 17, less than an hour after he arrived from Germany, sparking widespread criticism from western governments.

He had been in Berlin recovering from poisoning with a nerve agent.

Earlier today, the G7 group of nations condemned Navalny’s arrest and called his detention “politically motivated” in a statement.

The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US said Navalny’s detention was “deplorable” and called for his “immediate and unconditional release”.

“Russia is bound by its national and international obligations to respect and ensure human rights,” added the seven nations.

The G7 rebuke demonstrated the united front within the group against Russia, expelled from what was then the G8 in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea.

Navalny maintains the attack against him in August last year was ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, a claim the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

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In the statement, the G7 hit out at the use of the chemical nerve agent Novichok and said “any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and contravenes international norms against the use of such weapons”.

They urged Russian authorities to “investigate and credibly explain the use of a chemical weapon on its soil in the light of Russia’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention”.

Earlier today, Navalny’s aides called for new anti-government rallies outside the FSB security agency and Putin’s presidential administration in Moscow this weekend.

The opposition leader’s team called on Facebook for supporters to gather at noon.

Police on Saturday detained nearly 3,900 people — a record for a single day — at rallies in more than 100 cities across the country, where demonstrators called for Navalny’s release.

© AFP 2021

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