Merkel told Putin to his face that Navalny's imprisonment is unacceptable, calling for the opposition leader's release

After their talks at Moscow's Kremlin, Russia on August 20, 2021, Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor enter a hall. Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via REUTERS
Angela Merkel urged Vladimir Putin to free Alexei Navalny, a Kremlin critic who was held in jail on Friday.

She made her request on the 1st anniversary of Navalny’s near-fatal poisoning.

Navalny was indicted for new crimes this month, which could increase his sentence.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Vladimir Putin to free Alexei Navalny, a Kremlin critic, from prison Friday on the one-year anniversary his near-fatal poisoning.

Merkel stated, "I demanded of the Russian President that they free Navalny," after speaking with Putin. Putin denied that Navalny was being held for his political activities, France 24 reports.

Russian media reported that the two world leaders met for nearly three hours Friday.

France 24, reported that Navalny, Putin’s most outspoken critic, was indicted this month with new crimes, which could increase his sentence by three more years.

Russian opposition leader, Vladimir Putin, was nearly killed by the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in Serbia last august. He was then taken to Germany for treatment.

In January, Navalny was arrested in Moscow. The anti-corruption activist was arrested shortly after returning to Moscow in January. He was also sentenced for violating parole, including while he was being treated in Germany. This stemmed from a 2014 conviction for embezzlement that top human rights organizations denounced as politically motivated.

His imprisonment sparked mass protests across Russia and new sanctions from the West, including the US. In June, Navalny’s chief of staff Leonid Volkov said that Putin was dumb to imprison Navalny, as it made him a symbol for people to rally around. While denying the idea that Navalny was poisoned, the Russian leader also denied that it was his order. He also dismissed the claim that the opposition leader was imprisoned because it was politically motivated.

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Putin said that he could not guarantee Navalny's release from prison in a June interview with NBC News. Navalny's close allies frequently voiced concern over his health behind bars. Putin has been warned by the Biden administration. If Navalny is killed in prison, there will be severe consequences.

Putin is known for his brutal crackdown on dissent and critics often end up dying in suspicious or violent ways. Navalny wasn't the first Putin opponent poisoned by Novichok.

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