The ECHR on Wednesday called for the immediate release of Navalny - a demand which Russia condemned as "unacceptable interference".
The European Court of Human Rights on Wednesday called for the immediate release of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny, claiming that his life is at risk - a demand that was, unsurprisingly, rejected immediately by Russia, which condemned it as "unacceptable interference", even though there are agreements signed by the country binding it to ECHR decisions.
The ECHR demand was published a month after the arrest of the Kremlin's main opponent on 17 January, on his return to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from Novichok poisoning, a poisoning agent that international investigators have proved could not have happened without a direct order from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Court, in its ruling, does not refer to this poisoning, denied by Moscow, despite confirmation by three European laboratories. However, the ruling does explicitly state that Navalny should be released immediately due to the "high degree of danger to his life".
Is it true that Russia is not "obliged" to comply with the ECHR ruling?
"This is a blow to international law, the consequences of which the ECHR, in my opinion, is not aware of," Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Russia TV. 24.
Russia's Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko reacted sharply to the court's decision. According to Putin's official, there is allegedly "no legal basis in Russian law for the release of this man". Chuichenko (as well as other members of the regime), who in imitation of his boss does not directly call Navalny by his name, is of course lying - Russia has previously enforced such decisions.
Moscow, which has been at enmity with the European Union (EU) and the US for years, has already rejected numerous calls from the West for the release of Russia's most prominent opposition figure, viewing them as an alleged attack on its sovereignty. Nevertheless, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, ratified by Russia in 1998, expressly obliges it to comply with the Court's rulings.
For their part, Alexei Navalny's supporters welcomed the ECHR ruling, insisting that Russian justice must implement it urgently. "It cannot be otherwise, because the European Convention [on Human Rights] is part of Russian law," said Olga Mikhailova, the opponent's lawyer.
For his part, one of Navalny's closest associates, Leonid Volkov, confirmed that failure to implement the request could lead to Moscow's withdrawal from the Council of Europe and "many" consequences, such as the cancellation of international agreements binding on Russia.
Russia obliged to comply with interim measures requested by ECtHR
The ECtHR recalls that member states of the institution are "bound to comply" with interim measures requested by the ECtHR.
Interim measures ordered by the ECtHR are the result of an exceptional procedure in the case of an "imminent risk of irreparable harm". In 2014, Navalny was given a suspended sentence in the trumped-up Yves Rocher case, and in February 2021 his sentence was commuted to a real term. Although the 2017 ECHR ruled that Mr Navalny and his brother in the same case were denied the right to a fair trial.
Keep up the pressure and impose more sanctions against Mr Putin and his entourage
Navalny's imprisonment in January led to three days of protests across Russia, which the police brutally suppressed, arresting more than 10,000 people. The autumn parliamentary elections in Russia also threaten to intensify repression against all opposition figures.
Alexei Navalny and his supporters are planning new anti-government protests in the spring and summer, in the run-up to the Russian parliamentary elections, against the backdrop of the declining popularity of the Kremlin's United Russia party. There is therefore no doubt that other lawsuits against Alexei Navalny and his supporters will follow.
The European Union should consider taking sanctions because of Russia's refusal to comply with its international obligations and release Navalny as required by the ECHR ruling. After Josep Borrell's senseless trip to Moscow, which ended in an embarrassing humiliation for the European Union, the only response from Brussels should be to impose targeted sanctions on representatives of the Putin regime.
Unfortunately, this time, it seems, we will not see oligarchs close to Putin on this list, the impact of these sanctions will be nil. However, the reluctance of European officials not to hurt Putin too much by imposing sanctions on his personal "wallets" is very understandable. The EU thinks that in this way they can avoid a situation where Putin and his camarilla will throw themselves into the arms of Xi Jinping. This is rather naive. Putin is ready for a close alliance with the devil himself in order to retain his power. And sanctions, or no sanctions, imposed on Putin and his gangster will have no effect whatsoever on that. On the other hand, a show of punishment for the most odious billionaires on the list previously proposed by Navalny's associate Ashurkov might sober up the Russian business community and force them to rethink their relations with the regime.
As for the EU's and the US's fears of a strengthening of relations between Russia and China in the event of new sanctions, in my view they are unfounded, not least because the Russians don't want their country to become a Chinese colony.
This article is a translation from the original article in Russian published on the Russian Monitor.