Tuesday, 18 May 2021

Poisoned Russian opposition leader arrested after landing in Moscow

Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexei Navalny has been arrested by Russian police after he landed in Moscow this evening.

Mr Navalny flew back to Moscow despite Russian authorities’ warnings that he would be arrested in connection with a 2014 embezzlement case, which he maintains is made up and politically motivated. 

Today he was pictured kissing his wife goodbye before being taken away by officers. His wife has since been allowed to enter Russia.

The anti-corruption activist had been in Berlin for five months receiving emergency medical treatment after he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent. 

He believes the Kremlin was behind the poisoning, but Vladimir Putin’s government has denied the allegations. 

Mr Navalny said he would be returning to Russia on Wednesday, and the country’s Federal Prison Service announced the next day that they would be waiting to arrest him. 

He told reporters who had bought plane tickets around him: ‘This is the best moment in the last five months. I feel great. Finally, I’m returning to my home town.

He added: ‘What do I need to be afraid of? What bad thing can happen to me in Russia? I feel like a citizen of Russia who has every right to return.’

Mr Navalny, his wife Yulia and his spokesperson Kira Yarmysh were set to land in Vnukovo airport where supporters and allies were waiting to welcome him home. 

But on Sunday Russian authorities detained four of his allies at Vnukovo and diverted his flight last-minute to Sheremetyevo airport. 

The authorities accuse him of violating conditions of a suspended sentence handed to him after he was convicted of embezzlement. He has always said the case was politically motivated. 

The service said he has violated the terms of his sentence by not reporting for registration, as he is supposed to do twice a month, on six occasions last year. 

They said Mr Navalny would be kept in custody until his court hearing later this month. He will then find out whether authorities have decided to convert his suspended sentence to three-and-a-half years of jail time. 

Ms Yarmysh confirmed his arrest on Twitter and said: ‘Alexei was taken away by police officers at the border. With no explanation given.’ 

Bernie Sanders has since called for his release saying: ‘After surviving an attempt on his life, Russian activist Alexei Navalny has been detained after bravely returning to Russia today.

‘I call for his release. The United States must stand with those fighting corruption and working for democracy around the world.’

Despite three other criminal cases Mr Navalny is working towards success in September’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

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