The move by the Russian government to arrest thousands of protesters demanding the release of opposition figure Alexei Navalny, drew reactions from the European Community and the United States.
To stop and anticipate wider protests, the Russian government has taken firm steps to arrest and detain at least 5 thousand protesters on Sunday, January 31, 2021. The cold weather and heavy snow did not dampen the morale of the citizens of Moscow and other cities in Russia. They took to the streets asking the government to release Alexei Navalny, an opposition figure who is not afraid to criticize President Vladimir Putin's policies. Alexei Navalny, just returned to Moscow after recuperating in Berlin. Last summer, the critic of Putin's policies traveled to Berlin, Germany for treatment due to suspected poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok. Russian authorities have denied the allegations. But when Navalny returned to Moscow after nearly half a year of recovering, the police arrested and jailed him. Thousands of supporters and sympathizers immediately protested against Navalny's arrest by taking to the streets across Russia, until the police dispersed and arrested them. It was reported that the prison was full because of the mass arrests and detentions that were carried out.
The chaos in Russia has drawn reactions from both the United States and the European Community. Antony Blinken, Biden's new US Foreign Minister, has expressed deep concern. Blinken is concerned about the arrest of the Russian opposition figure which has been followed by the detention and arrest of protesters. As Minister of the Democratic Party Government, Blinken views the detention of Alexei Navalny and the arrest of thousands of protesters as concerning from a human rights perspective.
Like the United States, the European Union has also raised concerns over the actions of Russian police. The European Union Foreign Ministers, on Monday 24 January 2021, met and discussed Novolny's and thousands of Russian citizens arrest. European Union officials have stressed that they are not only paying attention, but also worrying about the incident, partly because Russia is Europe's close neighbor. Vladimir Putin's repressive actions could have an impact like the arrival of refugees from Russia to European countries which will cause new problems and difficulties.
The United States criticism towards the arrest of Russian opposition figures and the detention of thousands of supporters could be the beginning of a possible change in policy in bilateral relations between the two countries. Meanwhile, the European Union's reaction to what happened last weekend in Russia might trigger tensions in diplomatic relations between the two.
Whether Vladimir Putin will stick with his moves and policies towards Navalny remains to be seen in the near future.