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Russia rejects worldwide criticism of the Navalny ruling

Here is today's foreign policy assignment: Russian dissident Alexei Navalny is sentenced to prison Myanmar civil unrest begins to stir, and Mario Draghi could be Italy's next prime minister.

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Hundreds convicted as Navalny

A Moscow court sentenced Russian dissident Alexei Navalny on Tuesday to two years and eight months in prison as authorities hope to end a saga in which thousands of Russians have taken to the streets in protest over the past two weeks.

This support showed no sign of slackening outside the court after the verdict was announced: over 900 protesters were arrested yesterday, according to a surveillance group.

The court found that Navalny had breached his parole terms on a previous conviction for stealing $ 500,000 from two companies. Navalny denies the charges, and the European Court of Human Rights then called the case "arbitrary and obviously unreasonable".

The reasons for his suspended sentence are hazy as Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to have approved Navalny's transfer to a German hospital for treatment after he was poisoned in August.

Is there more to come? Navalny's relatively short sentence could soon be extended as investigators prepare a fraud case that could result in an additional 10-year prison sentence. As Amy Mackinnon reports on foreign affairs, Tuesday's ruling may just be enough if it means Navalny will not pose a threat in the September general election.

The Kremlin has dismissed the international condemnation of the judgment. “You shouldn't interfere in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. And we recommend everyone to deal with their own problems, ”said the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova.

Shaken or just stirred? On foreign policy, Vladislav Davidzon writes that the Russian response "has nowhere been as smooth as normal," a signal that the authorities are unsure whether to approach Navalny with cunning or brute force. Alexander Gabuev is rather pessimistic: the events in Belarus – and the lessons of weeks of protests – will help the Russian authorities weather the unrest, no matter how long it takes.

What we are following today

There is unrest in Myanmar. Workers at 70 hospitals in Myanmar held work breaks on Wednesday in protest against Monday's military coup, according to the newly formed civil disobedience movement in Myanmar. The move follows sporadic chanting and knocking pots and pans in Yangon City as citizens show public signs of unease about the military takeover.

On Tuesday, the United States officially labeled the takeover as a coup, which means that US aid to the country is now under review. Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council remains bogged down on the text of a resolution condemning the coup.

Iran reaches an agreement with South Korea. Iran agreed to release the crew of a South Korean oil tanker in what its State Department called "humanitarian" after the ship was seized in early January. The ship's seizure was believed to have been a negotiating chip to convince South Korea to release $ 7 billion in Iranian funds currently frozen due to US sanctions at South Korean banks.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry welcomed Iran's decision to release the seafarers and said it was a necessary next step to restore confidence before resolving the frozen funds issue. In terms of funding, the department said it would "do what it can quickly while it discusses consultations with the United States on the matter".

Italy's new prime minister? Italian President Sergio Mattarella is meeting with Mario Draghi this morning to investigate whether the former head of the European Central Bank could form a government of national unity after Giuseppes Conte tried to save a coalition. Mattarella called early elections ill-advised and said his duty was "to appeal to all political forces [to support a high-profile government]".

Support for Draghi is split between the major parties, making a broad coalition difficult. A senior member of the 5 Star Movement – the largest faction – said they would not support him, while the Democratic Party said it was ready to offer support. Draghi therefore needs the support of right-wing parties whose loyalty has not yet been declared.

Vaccine nationalism. World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus condemned vaccine nationalism as "morally indefensible" in an appeal to the international community published in Foreign Policy on Tuesday. Tedros also suggested making vaccines available to more countries by sharing vaccine technology and temporarily suspending intellectual property rights. "Vaccine nationalism combined with a restrictive approach to vaccine production is more likely to prolong the pandemic – which would amount to medical malpractice worldwide," writes Tedros.

Iran is upgrading nuclear facilities. Iran has installed new advanced centrifuges at its nuclear sites in Natanz and Fordow, according to Kazem Gharibabadi, Iranian envoy for the International Atomic Energy Agency. The new equipment has a higher uranium enrichment capacity, making it easier to surpass the purity levels previously banned under the Iranian nuclear deal. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Iran’s move had increased the US’s "urgency" to tackle Iran’s nuclear program, although no timetable for talks was announced.

A Taiwanese man was granted a postponement from paying a heavy fine for violating strict coronavirus quarantine requirements after authorities found he had been kidnapped.

The man, described as Mr. Chen in the New York Times, had stayed with a friend to watch the two-week quarantine after arriving from Hong Kong when debt collection agencies came into the house and mistook Chen for the homeowner owed them Money, and forcibly removed him from the premises.

After Chen's abduction was reported to police, the same authorities arrested him and fined him around $ 3,500 for breaking quarantine. Further investigation revealed the reason for Chen's sudden departure, and the fine was waived.

That's it for today.

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Photo credit: Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP

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