Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was detained on January 17 soon after he arrived in Moscow from Germany
Tokyo’s statement came days after the US and EU expressed concerns over the crackdown on Navalny and his supporters
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday urged Moscow to release Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny and peaceful protesters from detention, joining the United States and the European Union in expressing concerns over the crackdown.
“The Japanese government is closely watching (the situation) with concern,” Motegi told a press conference. “We want to request the release of Mr. Navalny and those who have been detained arbitrarily while engaging in peaceful demonstrations.”
Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was detained by police on January 17 soon after he arrived in Moscow from Germany, where he had been recuperating for five months after a nerve-agent attack he blames on Russian authorities.
Thousands of people demonstrating across Russia against the detention of Navalny were detained on Saturday.
“Regarding the poisoning incident with Mr. Navalny, Japan calls on Russia to ensure transparency and bring the perpetrators to justice,” Motegi said.
on Monday said he was “very concerned” about the arrest of Navalny, while the European Council President Charles Michel condemned Navalny’s detention and demanded his immediate release in a call with Putin on January 22.
Biden has been quickly thrown into a high-wire balancing act with Russia as he seeks to toughen his administration’s stance against Putin while preserving room for diplomacy in a post-Trump era.
The relationship is sure to be different from the one Putin enjoyed with Trump, who was enamoured of the Russian leader and sought his approval, casting doubt on Russian interference in the 2016 elections and involvement in a massive hack last year.
Despite this conciliatory approach, Trump’s administration toed a tough line against Moscow, imposing sanctions on the country, Russian companies and business leaders for issues ranging from Ukraine to energy supplies and attacks on dissidents.
Unlike his immediate predecessors, Biden has not held out hope for a “reset” in relations with Russia but has instead indicated he wants to manage differences with the former Cold War foe without necessarily resolving them or improving ties. And, with a heavy domestic agenda and looming decisions needed on Iran and China, a direct confrontation with Russia is not something he seeks.
When Biden first speaks with Putin, he is expected to call Putin out over Navalny’s arrest and the weekend crackdown on his supporters, raise charges that Russian security services were behind the recent massive cybersecurity breach, and press allegations that Russia offered the Taliban bounties to kill US troops in Afghanistan.
At the same time, Biden must be mindful of his own proposal to extend for five years the last remaining US-Russia arms control treaty that is due to expire in early February.
On Monday, Biden told reporters that he had not yet decided how to respond to the Navalny situation but expressed hope that the US and Russia could cooperate in areas where both see benefit.
“I find that we can both operate in the mutual self-interest of our countries as a New START agreement and make it clear to Russia that we are very concerned about their behaviour, whether it’s Navalny, whether it’s SolarWinds or reports of bounties on heads of Americans in Afghanistan,” Biden said.