The new president’s forceful denunciation of Russia’s newest manifestation of political repression marks a sharp departure from his predecessor, who would not say last September that Mr Navalny had been poisoned by Russian government agents, as had been widely reported and speculated.
“We call on Russian authorities to release all those detained for exercising their universal rights and for the immediate and unconditional release of Alexei Navalny,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday, echoing a statement from the State Department from over the weekend.
Ms Psaki reiterated calls for Russia to “cooperate” with the international investigation into Mr Navalny’s poisoning in August 2020 and to “credibly explain” the use of a chemical weapon, Novichok, on one of its own citizens.
Mr Navalny, who has recovered from the attack after treatment in a German hospital, returned to Moscow on a flight on 17 January and was promptly arrested. He is the most popular opposition political leader to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Thousands of pro-Navalny protesters were detained by police over the weekend for demonstrating against his arrest. Many have been released.
Last September, Mr Trump jumped on reporters for asking him about Mr Navalny’s poisoning and whether the Russian government had been behind the attack. The former president told the press they should be more focused on the wrongdoings of China than Russia.