Russia denounces ECHR’s call to release opposition leader Navalny

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MOSCOW, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — Russian officials on Thursday slammed the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for urging Moscow to free detained Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, a case that is widening the rift between Russia and Europe.

The ECHR said Wednesday in a press release that it had decided on Tuesday to request the Russian government to release Navalny immediately.

“The ECHR decision is unlawful and demonstrates a flagrant attempt to interfere in Russia’s internal lawsuit, which is unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

While Russia is not seeking confrontation, such a “hasty decision, marked by clear bias, raises many questions,” he said.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the demand of the ECHR gravely undermines the credibility of this institution.

“This decision has catastrophic consequences for international law, because it is impossible to endlessly use legal instruments for political purposes,” she noted.

Russian Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko called the ECHR decision groundless and a gross interference in the judicial affairs of a sovereign state.

The ECHR did not present any factual data that would lead to such a conclusion, he added.

Earlier this month, a Moscow court replaced Navalny’s suspended sentence in 2014 with 3.5 years in real jail time. The activist, 44, has appealed the ruling and sought European help.

Navalny’s case has sparked protests and then detentions by police in major Russian cities, while Russia and some European countries have mutually expelled diplomats.

The European Union is mulling harsh economic sanctions against Russia, which has threatened to sever ties with the bloc. Enditem

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