NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg gestures during a news conference ahead of a NATO defence ministers council at the alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 15, 2021 Photograph:( Reuters )
Navalny, 45, who was poisoned in August 2020 by what Western nations said was a nerve agent, is serving a 2-1/2-year sentence for parole violations he calls trumped up
NATO welcomed the announcement on Wednesday that the European Parliament's annual human rights prize was to be awarded to Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
"I think that's an important recognition of the important role he has played for many years in supporting democratic values and being a strong voice in Russia," Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference, calling for his release.
Navalny, 45, who was poisoned in August 2020 by what Western nations said was a nerve agent, is serving a 2-1/2-year sentence for parole violations he calls trumped up. The EU has imposed sanctions on Russian officials over Navalny's poisoning and imprisonment.
Moscow denies any wrongdoing and accuses the EU of interfering in its domestic affairs. It has also denied Western accusations that Navalny was jailed for his political activities and said he was punished for breaking the law.
Stoltenberg also reacted to Russia's decision to close its mission to NATO saying the move did not foster cooperation.
"We regret this decision which does not promote dialogue and mutual understanding but NATO's policy remains consistent and we remain open to dialogue," he said.
NATO said on October 6 it had expelled eight members of Russia's mission to the alliance who it said were "undeclared Russian intelligence officers".
Moscow said at the time that the expulsions undermined hopes that relations with the U.S.-led alliance could normalise.