Alexey Navalny, who was in Germany for five months after being poisoned, is at risk of immediate arrest upon his return to Russia.
Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny took off on a plane bound for Russia to return home for the first time since he was poisoned in August, despite Russian authorities’ stated desire to arrest him and l ‘potentially imprison for years.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critics, was flown to Berlin in August last year for emergency medical treatment after being poisoned with what German tests have shown to be a Novichok nerve agent.
“This is the best moment of the last five months,” he told reporters after taking a plane in the German capital to Moscow on Sunday. “I feel good. Finally, I’m going back to my hometown.”
He announced his decision to return from Germany on Wednesday, and a day later the Moscow Prison Service said it would do anything to arrest him upon his return, accusing him of flouting the terms of a sentence of suspended prison sentence for embezzlement, a 2014 case that he claims to be cheating.
The 44-year-old, who boarded a plane in Berlin at the last minute from a car sitting on the tarmac, avoiding other passengers, shed light on the risk of being arrested.
He said he didn’t think he would be arrested, calling himself innocent.
“What do I need to be afraid of?” What bad thing can happen to me in Russia? ” he added. “I feel like a Russian citizen who has every right to return,” he added.
He was accompanied by his wife Yulia and his spokesperson.
Navalny, who hopes to succeed in the parliamentary elections in September, also faces potential problems in three other criminal cases, which he says are all politically motivated.
The Kremlin Enigma
His return poses an enigma for the Kremlin: imprison him and risk Western demonstrations and punitive actions by turning him into a political martyr. Or do nothing and risk appearing weak in the eyes of Kremlin extremists.
He is expected to arrive in Moscow around 4.30 p.m. GMT.
The opposition politician, who says he has almost fully recovered, says Putin was behind his poisoning. The Kremlin denies any involvement, says it has seen no evidence he was poisoned and is free to return to Russia.
Navalny says the Kremlin is afraid of him. The Kremlin, which calls him only the “Berlin patient,” doesn’t care.
Putin’s allies cite opinion polls that show the Russian leader is much more popular than Navalny, whom they call a blogger rather than a politician.
Flight to Moscow
Navalny took a flight operated by Russian state-controlled Aeroflot-owned airline Pobeda.
His supporters plan to meet him at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow despite a forecast of extremely cold minus 20 degrees Celsius and more than 4,500 new cases of coronavirus a day in the Russian capital.
So far, at least 2,000 people have used a Facebook page to say they plan to be there, and another 6,000 have expressed interest. Pro-Kremlin activists are also expected to show up.
The Moscow prosecutor’s office, which claims to have officially warned 15 pro-Navalny organizers, said the event was illegal because it was not sanctioned by authorities. This means that those who show up could be detained, fined or jailed.
Reuters reporters saw a heavy police presence at the airport with dozens of police trucks.
Citing COVID-19 restrictions, the airport said it would not allow media to enter.