Lithuania rejects Russia’s demand to arrest Navalny ally

Photo: AP Leonid Volkov (L) and Alexei Navalny, Germany, 17 January.

A Moscow court on Wednesday ordered the arrest of Leonid Volkov, a top ally of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but Lithuania, where the associate lives, bluntly rejected the demand to take him into custody, AP reported.

“Using international tools for politically motivated prosecution is a wrong practice,“ Lithuanian Interior minister Agne Bilotaite said. “This raises serious doubts about Russia‘s membership in these organizations,“ she added, referring to the Russian arrest warrant sent through Interpol.

The action against Leonid Volkov by the Basmanny District Court was seen as part of an effort by authorities to squelch demonstrations demanding the release of Navalny, a top Kremlin foe who has been jailed since 17 January.

Volkov, a chief strategist for Navalny, was charged with encouraging minors to take part in unauthorized rallies, which could land him in jail for up to three years. He had already been put on an international wanted list. Volkov, who has lived abroad since 2019, has rejected the charges.

Volkov said last week that the pro-Navalny demonstrations should pause until the spring, arguing that an attempt to maintain rallies each weekend would only lead to thousands more arrests and wear out participants.

On Tuesday, however, he announced a new form of protest, urging residents of big cities to briefly gather in residential courtyards on Sunday with their cellphone flashlights turned on. He argued that the new tactics — similar to ones used by anti-government protesters in neighboring Belarus — would prevent Russian riot police from interfering and allow more people to participate without fearing repressions.

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