Police detain Kremlin critic Navalny on return to Russia | Russia News

Police detained prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on arrival at a Moscow airport after he flew home to Russia from Germany for the ...


Police detained prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on arrival at a Moscow airport after he flew home to Russia from Germany for the first time since he was poisoned last summer.

The move on Sunday, which could see Navalny jailed for three and a half years for allegedly flouting the terms of a suspended prison sentence, is likely to spark a wave of Western criticism of President Vladimir Putin.

In a case that drew wide international attention, Navalny was poisoned last summer by what German military tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent, a version of events the Kremlin rejects.

Navalny’s plane from Berlin was diverted to another Moscow airport at the last minute in an apparent effort by authorities to thwart journalists and supporters greeting him.

After Navalny said last week he planned to return home, the Moscow prison service (FSIN) said it would do everything to arrest him once he returned, accusing him of flouting the terms of a suspended prison sentence for embezzlement, a 2014 case he says was trumped up.

But the 44-year-old opposition politician laughed and joked with journalists on his plane, saying he was not afraid and did not believe he would be arrested.

In the event, he was swiftly detained when he showed his passport to border guards before formally entering Russia, Reuters witnesses said. His wife, Yulia, his spokeswoman, and his lawyer were allowed to enter Russia.

FSIN said in a statement Navalny had been detained due to the alleged violations of his suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court hearing later this month that will rule whether to convert his suspended sentence into a jail term.

Navalny, one of Putin’s most prominent domestic critics, faces potential trouble in three other criminal cases too, all of which he says are politically motivated.

Navalny says Putin was behind his poisoning. The Kremlin denies involvement, says it has seen no evidence that he was poisoned, and that he was free to return to Russia.

‘Completely unacceptable’

European Union members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia called for the “imposition of restrictive measures” against Russia following Navalny’s arrest, Lithuanian Foreign affairs minister said in a tweet on Sunday.

“Detaining Alexei Navalny by the Russian authorities is completely unacceptable. We demand his immediate release,” the minister, Gabrielius Landsbergis, said in a tweet.

“EU should act swiftly and if he is not released, we need to consider imposition of restrictive measures in response to this blatant act,” he added.

Law enforcement officers at Vnukovo International Airport in Moscow, Russia [Handout via Reuters]

His plane had been meant to arrive at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, but was diverted to land at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport instead. The flight was operated by Russian airline Pobeda, owned by state-controlled Aeroflot.

His supporters gathered at Vnukovo airport despite a forecast of bitterly cold minus 22 Celsius weather and over 4,500 new coronavirus cases a day in the Russian capital.

OVD-Info, a monitoring group, said police had detained 53 people in Moscow and five in St Petersburg.

Poisoning in August

Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a Berlin hospital two days later.

Russian authorities insisted that the doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia before he was airlifted to Germany found no traces of poison and have challenged German officials to provide proof of his poisoning.

They refused to open a full-fledged criminal inquiry, citing a lack of evidence that Navalny was poisoned.

Last month, Navalny released the recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he described as an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who purportedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it up.

The FSB dismissed the recording as fake.



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Newsrust: Police detain Kremlin critic Navalny on return to Russia | Russia News
Police detain Kremlin critic Navalny on return to Russia | Russia News
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