Western leaders have for the most part stayed quiet over the suspected poisoning of leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, as the Russian activist fights for his life in a Siberian hospital.
The response from US president Donald Trump barely acknowledged the sudden collapse of Russia’s most prominent opposition figure, and confirmed only that his administration was looking into the events.
The UK foreign minister, Dominic Raab, went a little further in saying that he was “deeply concerned” by reports Navalny had been poisoned mid-flight, but stopped short of demanding any accountability.
Germany’s Angela Merkel asked for clarity on the circumstances behind Navalny’s collapse, in what was perhaps the strongest move of any leader to push for an explanation from the Kremlin.
Some leaders did offer practical help, with French president Emmanuel Macron promising asylum and medical aid if needed.
Western governments may have held back stronger criticism of Russia because they were focused on getting Navalny flown out of the country for treatment, said Mark Galeotti, senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute thinktank.
“It’s a question of making the necessary statements to ensure that the Kremlin is aware that we’re watching this and concerned. But not going overboard on it because at the moment, in effect, Navalny is a hostage,” he said.
Opposition figures in Russia often avoid close association with western governments, as a common tactic employed by the Kremlin is to frame critics as allies or proxies of other states.