Sunday, January 17, 2021

Police detain Kremlin critic Navalny on return to Russia | Al Jazeera

Police detain Kremlin critic Navalny

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 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.

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