Australia has joined the UN and other Western countries in urging Russian authorities to release Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny after he was remanded in custody for 30 days.
“Australia is concerned by the arrest of Alexei @navalny upon his return to Russia. We stand with partners in calling on Russian authorities to release Mr Navalny immediately,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne tweeted on Tuesday.
Navalny has urged Russians to take to the streets in protest after a judge remanded him in pre-trial detention for 30 days.
The United Nations and Western countries had told Moscow before the ruling on Monday to let Navalny go, and some countries have called for new sanctions on Moscow, which on Monday told them to mind their own business.
The ruling to remand him in custody for violating the terms of a suspended jail sentence, a day after he flew back to Russia from Germany for the first time since he was poisoned with a nerve agent last summer, could be the prelude to him being jailed for years.
Moscow’s prison service has applied to convert a suspended three-and-a-half year embezzlement sentence in the same case, which he says was trumped up, into real jail time early next month.
He also faces three other separate criminal cases.
As Navalny was led out of a police station, he told supporters that the only thing they needed to be afraid of was their own fear.
“Don’t be afraid, take to the streets. Don’t go out for me, go out for yourself and your future,” Navalny said in a video posted to Twitter.
Supporters plan to rally across the country this Saturday, and an application for a 10,000-strong meeting at the end of this month has been lodged with Moscow authorities.
More than 70 Navalny supporters and journalists were detained across Russia on Monday, monitoring group OVD-Info said.
Navalny, 44, called his treatment illegal and accused President Vladimir Putin of throwing the criminal code out the window in fear.
The Kremlin did not respond, but has previously said Navalny must face justice if he has done anything wrong.
About 200 Navalny supporters had gathered outside the police station in freezing temperatures.
When they heard he had been remanded, they started chanting, “Disgrace!” and “Putin resign!”
Four masked police officers detained Navalny at passport control on Sunday evening as he returned to Russia after being treated in Germany for what German military tests showed was poisoning by a Novichok nerve agent, a version of events the Kremlin rejects.
The rouble weakened as investors weighed the risk of new sanctions against Moscow.