EU holds back on Navalny Russia sanctions

Unauthorised rallies for Alexei Navalny have taken place in more than 100 cities across Russia.
Unauthorised rallies for Alexei Navalny have taken place in more than 100 cities across Russia.

The European Union is waiting to see what happens in legal proceedings against Russian dissident Alexei Navalny's before deciding its next move, according to German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

"A lot is riding on this court verdict, whether Alexei Navalny walks free in 30 days or not," Maas said after a meeting with his EU counterparts on Monday.

The 44-year-old was sentenced to 30 days of pretrial detention a week ago.

"We remind Russia that its own constitution lays down principles of the rule of law and freedom of democracy," Maas added.

The 27 EU countries unanimously agreed that the detention of Navalny was "completely unacceptable" and condemned detentions of protesters supporting him over the weekend, the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

Borrell said he will broach the issue during a trip to Moscow in February.

Allies of Navalny are calling for new protests next weekend to demand his release.

Mass rallies took place on Saturday in more than 100 cities in what observers said were the largest in years and Navalny's supporters urged protesters to keep up the pressure.

Navalny strategist Leonid Volkov tweeted on Monday for more demonstrations on January 31 in "all Russian cities... For Navalny's freedom. For our freedom. For justice".

Australian Associated Press