- Angela Merkel told Vladimir Putin on Friday to release jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
- Her demand came on the one-year anniversary of Navalny's near-fatal poisoning.
- This month Navalny was charged with new crimes that could extend his sentence.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Friday for Russian President Vladimir Putin to release Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from prison on the one-year anniversary of his near-fatal poisoning.
"I demanded from the Russian President that he free Navalny," Merkel said after talks with Putin, who denied that Navalny was behind bars for his political activity, according to France 24.
The two world leaders met for almost three hours on Friday, Russian media reported.
Navalny, Putin's most prominent critic, this month was charged with with new crimes that could extend his sentence by three years, France 24 said.
The Russian opposition leader was poisoned with the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok in Serbia last August, and it nearly killed him. He was subsequently taken to Germany for treatment.
Navalny returned to Moscow in January and was promptly arrested. Shortly thereafter, the anti-corruption campaigner was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for violating parole - including while he received treatment in Germany - from a 2014 embezzlement conviction that top human rights groups denounced as politically motivated.
His imprisonment led to mass protests in Russia, as well as fresh sanctions from Western powers - including the US. Leonid Volkov, Navalny's chief of staff, in June told Insider that Putin was "dumb" to imprison Navalny because it turned him into a symbol for people to rally behind. The Russian leader has repeatedly rejected the notion that he ordered Navalny's poisoning while throwing cold water on the allegation that the opposition leader's imprisonment was politically motivated.
In a June interview with NBC News, Putin would not guarantee that Navalny would leave prison alive. Navalny's allies have frequently expressed concern about his health behind bars. The Biden administration has warned Putin there will. be severe consequences if Navalny dies while in prison.
Putin has a long record of brutally cracking down on dissent, and his critics have often ended up dead in violent or suspicious ways. Navalny was not the first Putin opponent to be poisoned with Novichok.