Bruins Slot calls on Russia to release body of Alexei Navalny

Hanke Bruins Slot in Brussels earlier this month. Photo: Ale Mi/ Depositphotos

Foreign affairs minister Hanke Bruins Slot has called for Russian authorities to release the body of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in a Siberian prison camp on Friday.

Bruins Slot summoned the Russian ambassador to demand an open investigation into the circumstances of the 47-year-old’s death. Navalny was poisoned in August 2020 with the nerve agent Novichok and accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of being behind the attack.

“What is important is that Navalny really fought,” Bruins Slot said during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. “He fought for democracy in Russia and against corruption and paid for it with his life.”

Bruins Slot also said the Netherlands is considering sanctions against Israeli settlers who have used extreme violence to drive out Palestinians from the West Bank.

EU ministers failed to reach a collective agreement on sanctions in Brussels, but the Netherlands is one of several nations that could pre-empt a decision by imposing a travel ban or other measures.

The UK and US have already sanctioned four individuals who it says are guilty of human rights abuses, while France has said it will ban 28 settlers accused of using violence against Palestinians, though it has not disclosed their names. Germany and Poland are expected to follow suit.

The West Bank is one of three territories, along with Gaza and East Jerusalem, named in a case brought by the Palestinian Authority at the International Court of Justice in The Hague that seeks to have Israel’s occupation declared illegal. Israel says it does not recognise the court’s jurisdiction.

The Netherlands has abstained from resolutions at the United Nations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, but has supported calls for Israel to to stop settler violence in the West Bank.

“It is extremely important for the Netherlands that we support the Palestinian Authority so that the West Bank remains relatively stable,” Bruins Slot said.

Travel bans are of limited value unless they are imposed across the European nations in the Schengen area, but Bruins Slot said: “My expectation is that more EU nations will draw up similar measures in the coming period.”

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