A Russian opposition figure and anti-corruption activist, poisoned with a nerve agent earlier in 2020, has recently returned to Moscow five months after the incident and has been detained by authorities upon his return.
According to his spokeperson, Alexei Navalny was taken away alone and without explanation when flown in from Berlin.
Live footage also showed him talking with dark-uniformed and masked officers at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport before kissing his wife and walking away with them.
Russian denies involvement in Navalny’s poisoning and Putin himself said that if Russian security services had wanted to kill Navalny, they “would have finished” the job.
The pair landed in Moscow just after 8pm and had stayed in Germany for five months prior in order to allow Navalny to recover from the Novichok poisoning.
“This is the best day in the past five months,” Navalny said to journalists upon arriving and before being arrested.
“Everyone is asking me if I’m scared. I am not afraid,” he said. “I feel completely fine walking towards the border control. I know that I will leave and go home because I’m right and all the criminal cases against me are fabricated.”
Before his return, Navalny was in the federal wanted list last month for violating terms of probation related to a year’s old fraud case, where he had dismissed as politically motivated. The Russian Federal Penitentiary Service confirmed on Sunday with a statement that Navalny had been detained and would remain in custody until a court hearing later this month.
He now remains held in custody at a police station in Khimki, north of central Moscow, and has now been allowed to his lawyer. He is likely to remain until a court hearing later this month.
A large crowd of supporters and journalists were to welcome Navalny back at Vnukovo airport initially, but the flight was diverted in the last minute to Sheremetyevo in Moscow. A number of those supporters and journalists were arrested soon after.
Before the flight, he had thank the other passengers. “Thanks to you all, I hope we will get there fine,” he said.
“And I’m sure everything will be absolutely great.”
He also gave his gratitude to the German people for hosting him in an Instagram post on Saturday, citing them as “nice, sympathetic, friendly people”.
Next steps for Navalny
Navalny was found in guilty in 2014 of fraud after he and his brother Oleg were accused of embezzling 30 million rubles (1.6 billion ringgit) from a Russian subsidiary of French cosmetics company Yves Rocher; he was given a suspended sentence while his brother jailed.
The Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) is requesting that his suspended sentence is replaced with a real prison term.
Navalny is now facing new accusations of violating his probation by failing to show up for scheduled inspections in Germany. Navalny’s hearing has been set for January 29th where if FSIN’s request is granted, he would be facing 3.5 years in jail.
If now convicted in January, Navalny will still face a newer fraud case of alleged misuse of donations form supporters.Last month, Navalny called the new criminal cases brought up against him in Russia “demonstratively fabricated” and an attempt to prevent him from coming back to Russia