WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin ahead of Wednesday’s summit that the death of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny would affect Russia’s relations with the rest of the world.
“Navalny’s death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of upholding basic human rights,” Biden said at a press conference on the Monday after the NATO summit.
“It would be a tragedy. I think it would only hurt his relationships with the rest of the world and with me,” he said.
Concerns over Navalny’s detention and deteriorating health are the latest drumbeat in the already strained relations between Moscow and the West.
A joint NATO statement on Monday said Russia’s “aggressive actions pose a threat to Euro-Atlantic security”. Some of the actions included Moscow’s military build-up, the use of cyberattacks and hybrid warfare, the annexation of Crimea and the D Kremlin funded disinformation campaigns called.
As Biden prepares for a face-to-face meeting with Putin, the White House insists that the Geneva Summit is not a reward for Putin and puts him on an equal footing with the United States.
Instead, the meeting will be a factual review of bilateral relations. Biden will raise several pressing concerns, but will also look to areas where Russia and the United States can work together.
Biden also praised Putin on Monday, saying he was “smart, he is tough, and I have found that, as they say, he is a worthy opponent”.
This is not the first time Biden has pressured Putin over Navalny’s situation. Shortly after he was sworn in, Biden spoke to Putin by phone and said he had told his counterpart that Navalny’s detention was “of deep concern” to the United States.
“Like all Russian citizens, Mr Navalny is entitled to his rights under the Russian constitution,” said Biden in a speech to US diplomats. “He was targeted for exposing corruption. He should be released immediately and unconditionally. “
In January Navalny flew from Berlin to Russia, where he had recovered for almost six months after being poisoned last summer. He was arrested at passport control immediately after landing.
A month later, a Russian court sentenced Navalny to more than two years in prison for violating parole terms.
The German government said Navalny was poisoned by a chemical nerve agent in August 2020 and toxicological reports had provided “clear evidence” of the poison.
The nerve agent came from the Novichok family, which was developed by the Soviet Union decades ago. Toxicological tests in France and Sweden came to the same conclusion.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that it was involved in the poisoning of Navalny.
In March, the Biden government imposed sanctions on seven members of the Russian government for allegedly poisoning Navalny.
Washington also imposed sanctions on 14 companies involved in the chemical and biological industrial base in Russia.
At the time, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken wrote in a statement that the sanctions would send “a clear signal” to Russia that the use of chemical weapons and human rights violations would have serious consequences.