At Kremlin, Merkel and Putin clash over Navalny

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday used her final official visit to Russia to tell President Vladimir Putin to free Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

”I once again demanded the release of Alexei Navalny from the Russian President and made it clear that we would stick to the matter here."

But the Kremlin leader rebuffed her, saying the jailing was unrelated to politics:

"As to the person that you have mentioned (Navalny), he was not sentenced for his political activity, he was punished for his criminal activity against foreign partners."

The talks, as Merkel prepares to step down following elections next month, coincided with the first anniversary of Navalny's poisoning, an incident that strained Russia-Germany ties.

The two leaders on Friday also addressed the crisis in Afghanistan.

Putin said that other countries must not impose their political views on Afghanistan, adding that the Taliban's rule in the country is (quote) ’the reality that needs to be taken into account’.

"The irresponsible policy of imposing some external values (on Afghanistan) must be stopped, as well as the aspirations to introduce democracy following the patterns of other states, without consideration of the historical, national and religious traits (of the country), completely ignoring the traditions of other peoples."

"In our view, the most essential thing now is to prevent the penetration of the terrorists into the territories of Afghanistan's neighbor states, including those disguised as refugees.”

Merkel also weighed in on the risk of terrorism - saying the international community must stand up against it:

"The danger of acute terrorism in Afghanistan can be managed at the moment. The situation has improved since 2001. But we can't rule it out completely."

Merkel stressed ongoing talks with the Taliban are necessary and said (quote) "We have to accept that the Taliban received more support than we would have liked."

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