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NZ's Foreign Affairs Minister calls for release of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is calling for the “immediate release” of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who was jailed upon his return to Russia from Germany, where he was recovering from nerve agent poisoning.

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He was arrested yesterday after returning to Moscow for the first time since he was poisoned with a nerve agent. Source: 1 NEWS

In a statement to 1 NEWS, Mahuta said New Zealand “is concerned at the detention of Alexei Navalny and calls for his immediate release”.

“Civil society and political opposition must be able to operate freely – these are essential elements of democratic societies,” she said.

Mahuta joins US and European officials criticising Russia for the 44-year-old’s arrest.

Navalny is a well-known critic of President Vladimir Putin's government, who he blames for his poisoning in August.

Navalny returned to Russia despite warnings he would be arrested once he arrived.

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Alexei Navalny's team believe something was put into his tea at an airport café before he fell ill during a flight. Source: 1 NEWS

Russia's prison service claimed he violated the probation terms from a suspended sentence on a 2014 money-laundering conviction. 

Navalny said the conviction was politically-motivated.