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Despite repeated requests for legal aid by Russian prosecutors, German authorities are denying the Russian Embassy consular access to activist Alexei Navalny.
The story advances the recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative on the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
The report falsely suggests that Russian prosecutors' requests for legal aid would oblige Berlin to grant Russian Embassy officials consular access to Navalny. However, legal aid and consular access are governed by two separate international agreements.
In the context of the Navalny case, any requests for legal aid would fall under the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov himself stated that the 1959 treaty only applies to the "transfer of the biomaterial, test results, clinical samples and medical documentation required for a thorough, full inquiry into Navalny's illness and hospitalization."
On the other hand, consular access falls within the scope of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The German Foreign Ministry spokesperson said 28 September that "Mr. Navalny is free to receive the consular visit if he wants to" [emphasis added], in line with Article 36(a) of the Convention:
"[C]onsular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State" [emphasis added].
The provision in italics means that consular officers cannot pay their co-nationals unsolicited visits abroad. Even a citizen under arrest or pending prosecution can only be visited by a consular official abroad "if he so requests," per Article 36(b).