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Finland's PM Sanna Marin demands Navalny release

Finland’s Prime Minister has joined other EU leaders in calling for Alexei Navalny to be released from custody.

Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin tweeted her demand for the release of Alexei Navalny on Monday morning. Image: Leila Oksa / Yle

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) has demanded the immediate release of Alexei Navalny, a Russian opposition leader arrested in Moscow on Sunday.

Navalny had just returned to Russia when he was taken into custody at the airport’s passport control office. He had been in Berlin for treatment after he was almost killed in a nerve-agent attack nearly five months ago.

The activist has blamed Russian authorities for his poisoning, but President Vladimir Putin's government denies any involvement.

In a tweet on Monday morning, Finland’s PM also called for the release of a number of other people arrested at the same time as Navalny.

"Russia should investigate Navalny’s poisoning, [and] protect rights of opposition which belongs to any democracy," the PM wrote.

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Marin’s call follows similar demands from the United States and several other European countries that Navalny should be immediately released from custody.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Russia is bound by its own constitution and by international obligations to uphold the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights.

"These principles must, of course, be applied to Alexei Navalny as well. He should be released immediately," Maas wrote in a press release, as reported by news agency Reuters.

Finland's President Sauli Niinistö also joined calls for the opposition leader to be released.

Speaking to the country's largest circulation daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, Niinistö said that there are no grounds for Navalny's arrest or continued detention.

"The detention of Navalny must end as soon as possible," Niinistö told HS. "At the same time, it must be said that there is no legal reason to even keep him under arrest."

EDIT: Story updated 18.1.2021 at 13:25 with the comments from Finland's President Sauli Niinistö.