Kremlin Critic Navalny Detained After Arrival In Moscow
By RFE/RL's Russian Service, Current Time January 17, 2021
MOSCOW -- Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny arrived in Moscow from Germany, where he was being treated after being poisoned, and was promptly detained by law enforcement authorities at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.
A live broadcast of his arrival showed police taking the 44-year-old Kremlin critic away on January 17 at the passport control booth.
His lawyer, who was travelling with him, was not allowed to accompany him. His wife, Yulia Navalnaya, who was also on the flight, was allowed to pass through passport control.
Russia's prison authority, FSIN, confirmed Navalny's detention, according to Interfax. The FSIN statement said that Navalny was being held because of "multiple violations" of the conditions of his suspended sentence relating to a 2014 fraud conviction and for evading criminal inspectors.
Shortly before he was detained, Navalny told journalists he was "happy" to be back in Russia and that he was confident he would not be arrested.
Navalny arrived from Germany after being flown there for emergency medical care after being poisoned in Russia in August 2020.
Laboratory tests conducted in Germany, France, and Sweden have established that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent of the Soviet-style Novichok class, a conclusion confirmed by the international Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Navalny has said President Vladimir Putin is directly responsible for the poisoning. The Kremlin has denied any involvement.
Navalny had been scheduled to arrive at Moscow's Vnukovo airport, where hundreds of his supporters had gathered amid a massive riot police presence.
At the last minute, however, authorities closed Vnukovo to incoming flights and diverted Navalny's plane to Sheremetyevo airport on the other side of the capital.
Police detained numerous people who were waiting for Navalny's arrival at Vnukovo, including Lyubov Sobol, a lawyer for Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation; Ruslan Shaveddinov, a project manager for the foundation; and Novaya gazeta journalist Vlad Dokshin. Other journalists were also reportedly among the detained.
Navalny returned to Russia despite the authorities' stated intention to arrest him and potentially jail him for years.
Late last month, the FSIN demanded Navalny return immediately from Germany or face jail in Russia for violating the terms of his suspended prison sentence.
Navalny denies all wrongdoing in that case and says that it, like several other criminal cases filed against him in recent years, is retribution for his anti-Kremlin political activity.
According to court documents, he could face a prison term of as much as 3 1/2 years.
Navalny and other members of his Anti-Corruption Foundation could also face separate criminal charges of embezzling donors' funds, an accusation they vehemently deny. That charge carries a prison term of up to 10 years.
Earlier on January 16, Germany demanded that Moscow carry out a full investigation into Navalny's poisoning and sent to Russia the transcripts of interviews its authorities conducted with him.
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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