President Joe Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the US government told Russia that “there will be consequences” if Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny dies in prison.
“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in his custody is his responsibility and the international community will hold them accountable.
“As for the specific measures that we would undertake, we are seeing a variety of different costs that we would impose and I am not going to telegraph that publicly at this time, but we have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies,” he added.
A doctor from Navalny, who is on the third week of a hunger strike, has said that his health is rapidly deteriorating and that the 44-year-old could be on the brink of death.
The prominent opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin began refusing food on March 31 to protest the lack of adequate medical treatment for his leg and back.
“This latest threat from the United States increases other diplomatic problems that have befallen the two countries,” Al Jazeera’s Mike Hanna reported from Washington, DC, citing recent US sanctions on Russia.
On the question of what measures the United States could take against Russia, Hanna said: “Possibly there are measures like the expulsion of an ambassador. That would be an extreme diplomatic step taken by the United States government. ”
The European Union said Sunday it was “deeply concerned” by the reports on 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, to which we hold them accountable,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said in a statement.
The matter is on the agenda of a videoconference of EU foreign ministers to be held on Monday, Borrell said.
“Of course, he will not be allowed to die in prison, but I can say that Mr. Navalny behaves like a hooligan,” said Ambassador Andrei Kelin.
“Her public purpose of him, all of that, is to draw attention to him too, saying that today his left hand is diseased. Tomorrow his leg is sick. ”
Navalny’s team called for protests across Russia on Wednesday night, just hours after Putin delivered a national speech.
“It is time to act. We are not just talking about Navalny’s freedom, but about his life, “Navalny’s right-hand man Leonid Volkov said on Facebook on Sunday.
Volkov said Wednesday’s rally could turn into a decisive battle against “absolute evil” or the last rally of Russia’s opposition in the next few years.
“Right now they are killing him in a prison and you can’t wait any longer.”
“Call everyone you know and go to the central squares,” wrote Volkov, who heads Navalny’s regional offices, adding that the protests should be massive.
There were no immediate comments from the police or government officials about the call for protests.
Russian police detained thousands of people in January when protesters took to the streets across the country demanding Navalny’s release.
Navalny was arrested on January 17 when he returned to Russia from Germany, where he had spent five months recovering from nerve agent poisoning that he attributes to the Kremlin.
Russian officials have denied any involvement and have even questioned whether Navalny was poisoned, which was confirmed by several European laboratories.
Navalny was ordered to serve two and a half years in prison on the grounds that his lengthy recovery in Germany violated a suspended sentence he had been given for a fraud conviction in a case Navalny says was politically motivated.