Vladimir Putin has denied claims that Alexey Navalny was jailed for his political activities.
The Russian President’s statement came during a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Moscow.
The pair discussed the Kremlin critic’s fate, among other things.
The German leader said she had “demanded” Putin free Navalny during their discussions.
“We … spoke about the depressing situation of Alexei Navalny,” the German leader told reporters after the talks.
“I have demanded once again from the president to release Navalny and I have made it clear that we will remain on the case,” she said.
But Putin said Navalny had been punished for breaking the law.
“He is convicted not of his political activity, but of a criminal offense,” he said.
A statement was released by Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday that said that the actions by “Germany and its allies” over the past 12 months indicated “a planned provocation aimed at discrediting Russia in the eyes of the global community and at damaging its national interests”.
The ministry accused Berlin of failing to provide evidence that would support their “brazen allegations” that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent. It said Germany left legal requests from Russian law enforcement without any “meaningful answers” and instead played “bureaucratic ping-pong” with Moscow.
This is a stance that the Russian government has taken for months, and has even alleged that countries such as the U.S are part of this campaign to malign Russia internationally.
Navalny was flown to Germany last year after being poisoned with what the West concluded was a military nerve agent. Moscow rejects that and alleges a Western smear campaign. Navalny was jailed when he flew back to Russia.
On Friday, the USA and UK imposed sanctions on men they said were Russian intelligence operatives responsible for the attack on Navalny.
Navalny appealed to the West to do more to combat corruption in countries like Russia.
Some other things discussed during the three-hour-long talks were Afghanistan, Libya, and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany.
The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has angered the United States and some European countries, but the US and Germany announced a deal last month to allow its completion.
Shortly after Putin’s comments on the pipeline, Washington announced new sanctions on one Russian vessel and two Russian individuals involved in Nord Stream 2.