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Antony Blinken warns Russia against harming detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny

New Secretary of State Antony Blinken warns Russia against harming detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny and says Putin’s regime seems ‘scared’ of him

  • Antony Blinken briefed the press on his first day as secretary of state
  • He was sworn in Wednesday afternoon
  • Expressed ‘deep concern’ the safety of Navalny
  • Navalny returned to Russia and is serving prison sentence after being poisoned 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a sharp warning to Russia to ensure the safety of opposition leader Alexei Navalny – and called on the Kremlin not to ‘muzzle’ opposing voices.

Blinken spoke about the tense situation in Russia a day after President Biden phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to raise Navalny and other contentious issues.  

‘We have a deep concern for Mr. Navalny’s safety and security and the larger point is that his voice is the voice of many, many, many Russians and it should be heard, not muzzled,’ Blinken said at the State Department just hours after being sworn into his post.  

‘We have a deep concern for Mr. Navalny’s safety and security,’ said new Secretary of State Antony Blinken

‘It remains striking to me how concerned and maybe even scared the Russian government seems to be of one man, Mr. Navalny,’ he said, poking at the Russian government, which oversaw a harsh security crackdown on protesters Navalny had urged to the streets.   

During his call with Putin, Biden raised numerous issues, including an expiring nuclear arms control treaty, Ukraine’s sovereignty, the SolarWinds hack, and Russian election interference. 

This grab taken from a video made available on January 18, 2021 on Navalny team YouTube page shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaking while waiting for a court hearing at a police station in Khimki outside Moscow

This grab taken from a video made available on January 18, 2021 on Navalny team YouTube page shows Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaking while waiting for a court hearing at a police station in Khimki outside Moscow

Dmitry Poshtarenko, expert who makes 3D military scenes and dioramas (L), Russias President Vladimir Putin (C) and the museum's director Alexander Shkolnik look at a display in the Victory Museum on Poklonnaya Hill during celebrations marking the 77th anniversary of the end of Leningrad Siege

Dmitry Poshtarenko, expert who makes 3D military scenes and dioramas (L), Russias President Vladimir Putin (C) and the museum’s director Alexander Shkolnik look at a display in the Victory Museum on Poklonnaya Hill during celebrations marking the 77th anniversary of the end of Leningrad Siege

Law enforcement officers clash with participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia January 23, 2021

Law enforcement officers clash with participants during a rally in support of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia January 23, 2021

‘Across the board as the president has said we’re reviewing all of these actions that are a deep concern to us, whether it’s the treatment of Mr. Navalny and particularly the apparent use of the chemical weapon in an attempt to assassinate him,’ Blinken said.

‘We’re looking very urgently as well at SolarWinds and its various implications. We’re looking at the reports of bounties placed by Russia on American forces in Afghanistan, and, of course, we’re looking at these questions of election interference.’

It remains striking to me how concerned and maybe even scared the Russian government seems to be of one man, Mr. Navalny.’ – Sec. of State Antony Blinken

‘He called all those subjects ‘under review.’ 

Blinken kicked off his briefing with expressions of ‘deep respect’ for the press and the role it plays, following an administration that did away with regular briefings at the State Department and the Pentagon.

‘And you hold us accountable, ask tough questions. And that really does make us better,’ he said. ‘A free press is a cornerstone of our democracy,’ he said.

But he did not reject all elements of Trump Administration policy, expressing support for the Abraham Accords granting recognition to Israel from several countries.

‘As we’ve said, we very much support the Abraham accords,’ he said. ‘We think that Israel normalizing relations with its neighbors and other countries in the region is a very positive development and so we applaud them. And we hope that there may be an opportunity to build on them in the months and years ahead,’ he said.

He said he wanted a ‘full understanding’ of any commitments that may have been made, when asked about F-35 jet sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Blinken, 58, was confirmed by the Senate Tuesday on a 78 to 22 vote. 

He returned to a building where he served as deputy secretary of state. He also served as deputy national security adviser for President Barack Obama.

Blinken said he intended to keep Zalmay Khalilzad to continue the ‘vital work’ he has been performing in Afghanistan as U.S.special representative. 

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