Russia Says ‘No Legal Grounds’ to Release Alexei Navalny

Russia said Wednesday there were no legal grounds to set Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny free, swiftly rejecting a call from the European Court of Human Rights for his immediate release.

The Strasbourg-based court had earlier Wednesday ordered Moscow to release the jailed opposition figure saying his life was in danger in prison.

Navalny, 44, was arrested and jailed after returning to Russia last month from Germany, where he spent months recovering from a poisoning attack that he blamed on the Kremlin.

Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko told the Interfax news agency that the ECHR demands were “unreasonable and unlawful” and represented “clear and gross interference” in the activities of Russia’s judiciary system.

“The demand is deliberately unenforceable since in accordance with Russian law there are no legal grounds for the release of this person from custody,” he said.

He added that the ruling did not contain “a single fact or a single rule of law” that would allow it to carry out such a decision.

Earlier this month, a Moscow court ruled to convert a suspended sentence Navalny was handed in 2014 to nearly three years in prison, sparking nationwide rallies and an outcry in the West.

In his complaint to the ECHR, which was lodged on January 20, Navalny indicated that the Russian government could not provide “sufficient safeguards” for his life and health, the court said.

Last August, Navalny fell violently ill on a flight over Siberia and was airlifted to Berlin for treatment.

Western scientists later concluded that he was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve toxin and Navalny insists Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attack, a claim the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

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