Amnesty International has slammed Russia's "utter disregard for justice" for its failure to investigate the poisoning of jailed opposition politician Aleksei Navalny one year ago.
The anti-corruption campaigner and outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin fell violently ill while on a passenger flight in Siberia, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Omsk, where Navalny was rushed to a hospital.
Days later, Navalny was airlifted to a clinic in Berlin, where doctors battled to save his life. It was later determined by several laboratories that he had been poisoned with a Soviet-style nerve agent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will visit Moscow for talks with Putin later on August 20 that coincide with the first anniversary of the poisoning, an incident that severely strained Russian-German ties.
"One year ago today, the Kremlin's most vocal critic was attacked with a banned chemical weapon, an outrageous crime which should have been the subject of an urgent investigation by Russian authorities," Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary-general, said in a statement on August 20.
"Instead, the Russian government chose to throw Aleksei Navalny behind bars on false grounds -- in conditions which almost killed him -- and to pursue a relentless campaign of reprisals against his supporters."
Navalny has blamed Putin for the attack, which the Kremlin has denied.
Since the poisoning, Navalny and his associates have uncovered what they say is evidence of the involvement of federal intelligence agents in the attack, while authorities have rejected any implication of official involvement.
The government has also embarked on a sometimes violent crackdown on dissent, rounding up many of Navalny's associates and other opposition figures, and detaining thousands who rallied in his support.
Putin has also moved to end the activities of Navalny's political organizations, including his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which for years has exposed alleged corruption among top officials and business elite.
"The Russian authorities' failure to investigate the attempt on Navalny's life is damning proof of their utter disregard for justice and for the right to life. We reiterate our call for an immediate and impartial investigation into the attempted poisoning of Aleksei Navalny, and for an end to the persecution of Navalny and his supporters," Callamard said.
On the eve of the anniversary of his poisoning, Navalny issued an open letter published in Western newspapers, describing global corruption as being the root cause of many of the world's big problems.
Navalny wrote that while Western leaders try to solve global challenges -- wars, poverty, migration, the climate crisis, and weapons of mass destruction -- corruption rarely fits at the top of agenda, even though it is behind many of the world's main crises.
"Religious extremists of all stripes find it easier to conduct propaganda when their opponents are driving Rolls-Royces through the streets of penniless countries. Migration crises are caused by poverty, and poverty is almost always caused by corruption," Navalny wrote, citing other examples for war, the climate crisis, and terrorism.
Navalny said corruption had "long ceased to be merely an internal problem" of authoritarian countries and is now "one of the main causes of the global challenges that face the West."
He called on Western countries to challenge authoritarian leaders, including Putin, on corruption through numerous avenues and international summits, saying it would make things "very tricky, very awkward" for corrupt leaders and their cronies.
He also said that corruption in authoritarian countries can thrive because of the West's financial infrastructure, with much of the stolen wealth being held abroad.
The Kremlin critic said Western leaders should show "determination and political will" to fight corruption as he outlined five steps that are "entirely realistic."
They include creating a special category of "countries that encourage corruption" and the establishment of an international body, making it easier to take collective action against graft.
He also called for "enforced transparency" of all dealings between Western companies that deal with partners from corrupt countries.
"You work for a state-owned company in a country at high risk of corruption and want to buy a villa on the French Riviera? Fine, go ahead, but you should know that all the information about the deal will be publicly available. You want to have dealings with an official in Minsk or the aunt of a Russian governor? No problem, but you will have to publish the entire paper trail of the transaction," he wrote.
Navalny also called for personal sanctions to be imposed on oligarchs surrounding Putin, who he described as "the role model for all the world's corrupt officials and businessmen."
"Putin's oligarchs, those heading 'state-owned' companies and companies that are formally private but whose prosperity is linked to Putin's group, are not businessmen but leaders of organized crime groups," he said.
The letter was published in The Guardian, Le Monde and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.