Czech Foreign Minister condemns police violence in Russia

"I denounce the brutal violence and suppression of freedom of speech," says Tomáš Petříček

ČTK

Written by ČTK
Published on 24.01.2021 16:28 (updated on 24.01.2021)

Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček has condemned the brutal violence and suppression of freedom of speech in Russia in connection with the rallies in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny today.

Petříček tweeted that according to NGO estimates, over 3,400 people including Navalny's wife had been arrested during the protests.

"This is an incredible number, even for such a large country as Russia. I denounce the brutal violence and suppression of freedom of speech," he added.

When asked whether he planned to summon the ambassador of Russia over the situation, Petříček told CTK that the topic would be on the agenda of an EU Council meeting on Monday.

"However, we will also raise the issue bilaterally with Russian representatives," Petříček added.

At the meeting on Monday, the Czech Republic will support widening a sanction list to include those involved in Navalny's arrest, Petříček told Czech Television today.

In the long run, the Czech Republic should reconsider its relations, including economic, with Russia, he added.

Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček said the steps taken by the Russian government against Navalny "were a tremendous shame for Russia," showing the fears of the current Russian regime of instability and response by Russia's own people.

"They are upset," Hamáček said, adding that on Saturday, people in Russia demonstrated even in places where frosts brought temperatures down to minus 50 degrees centigrade.

TEACHER PROFILES

"The action was brutal and it still continues, as far as I know. A state that is not afraid of its own citizens does not behave like this," Hamáček said, warning of developments in Belarus, which faces a similar situation.

The Czech Senate chairman of foreign affairs, Pavel Fischer, blasted the lukewarm response by leading Czech politicians.

"The silence is not good, it is scandalous," Fischer said, referring to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and President Miloš Zeman not having voiced an opinion on the matter.

The portal OVD-Info has said at least 3,134 people were arrested across Russia, including 1,201 in Moscow and 471 in Saint Petersburg.

TEACHER PROFILES

Navalny himself called on citizens to hold the rallies. Russian authorities made it clear they wanted to prevent them.

Last weekend, Navalny was detained at the airport upon his arrival in Moscow from Berlin, where he had been since August recovering from an attempted Novichok poisoning. He accused Putin and the FSB Russian secret service of the attempt to poison him, which Russian authorities dismissed.

Russia's Prison Service FSIN argued that Navalny failed to turn up for a check within a suspended sentence he had been given for embezzlement. He was remanded in custody for 30 days on Monday.

"At first, there was an attempted poisoning of the opposition politician, then delays with his transport to Germany, then telling the lies that they were not guilty," Hamáček said.

"The moment he returns home, he is convicted for having left. He left so that he does not die. This is absurd."