Portugal ‘accidentally’ shares contact details of pro-Navalny activists with Russia

Portugal ‘accidentally’ shares contact details of pro-Navalny activists with Russia
Lisbon claims details were sent in ‘bureaucratic error’

Lisbon mayor Fernando Medina has faced calls to resign after his city hall shared with Moscow details of three Russian organisers of a rally in support of the jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

Mr Medina said the sharing of the activists’ details was a “bureaucratic error” as he made a public apology on Thursday. “This should not have happened,” he told reporters.

“The position of Portugal and the European Union is in line with the one expressed by the protesters, of great concern with human rights violations, with the demand for the release of Navalny from prison.”

But the mayor, from Portugal’s ruling Socialist Party, refused to step down over the January incident, reported by the Expresso and Observador newspapers on Wednesday night.

Mr Navalny is in prison for breaking parole violations related to an embezzlement case he says was trumped up. He was detailed by police after returning to Moscow in January, five months after the suspected FSB nerve agent attack that nearly killed him.

Despite widespread protests across Russia, Mr Navalny was later sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail. Since then, President Putin has conducted a purge against his associates and supporters.

Mr Medina’s said the sharing of such data with embassies facing protests over their respective countries’ policies had been the city hall’s “normal procedure” until April, when it ceased doing so to protect the rights of protesters.

He added that following the procedure in a case where there is risk for the participants was a bureaucratic error.

The Russian embassy has yet to comment.

Mr Navalny fell into a coma onboard a flight from Siberia to Moscow last year, after he was poisoned with a nerve agent. He was taken to Germany for treatment before returning to Russia in January when he was immediately detained. The Kremlin has denied any role in his illness and said it has seen no proof he was poisoned.

Activists staged protests over his arrest in many countries, including Portugal, where organisers had obtained a go-ahead from the mayor’s office to hold a rally by the Russian embassy after providing their names and contacts to the authority.

One of the activists, Ksenia Ashrafullina, 36, and holder of dual Russian and Portuguese citizenships, discovered her contact details had been shared with the Russian embassy and foreign ministry during an email exchange with the city hall.

“The Portuguese state did not protect me. I felt betrayed,” Ms Ashrafullina told Reuters. “After Navalny was poisoned we realised Russia was becoming more violent towards its citizens so how am I going to be allowed back in? Maybe nothing will happen but there’s no protection any longer,” she said.

A Russian court on Wednesday outlawed groups linked to Navalny after declaring them “extremist”. Critics say the move is another attempt by Mr Putin to quell discontent ahead of elections in September.

Additional reporting by Reuters