Russian opposition chief Alexei Navalny has been detained after defiantly flying again to Moscow on Sunday, his spokesperson mentioned, months after he was left in a coma when he was poisoned with the Novichok nerve agent.
Dealing with the specter of his arrest on touching down, the distinguished Kremlin critic boarded a airplane in Berlin, Germany, the place he was evacuated for remedy in August from a hospital in Siberia on the insistence of his household.
The airplane, which was initially headed for Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, was diverted to the capital’s Sheremetyevo Airport shortly earlier than touchdown, Navalny’s press officer Kira Yarmysh confirmed in a tweet, with out explaining why the airplane was re-routed.
Yarmysh posted a video of Navalny being escorted away by officers in Sheremetyevo, saying he was being detained with out clarification and was not allowed to convey his lawyer. His present whereabouts and standing are unknown, Yarmysh tweeted Sunday.
Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service launched a press release to state-run media company TASS confirming Navalny was being detained, allegedly for “repeated violations of the probationary interval.” He’ll stay in custody till he can seem in court docket, the assertion mentioned.
Whereas Navalny, 44, was within the air, Russia’s Dozhd TV broadcaster confirmed photos of Navalny’s associates, together with lawyer and politician Lyubov Sobol, getting detained as they have been ready for the politician to reach on the Vnukovo airport.
Inside and out of doors the airport, tons of defied a warning from the Moscow Prosecutor’s workplace to welcome Navalny when he touched down. Dozhd TV confirmed photos of some supporters being detained and riot police shifting in.
Safety measures have been additionally heightened on the airport and several other prisoner-transport vehicles may very well be seen outdoors.
Hours earlier, sporting a vivid inexperienced jacket and carrying a small suitcase, Navalny boarded his Moscow-bound flight and waved to the throng of reporters and different passengers, earlier than he was applauded by some as he entered the airplane.
“I’m very, very pleased immediately,” he mentioned, including that he felt like “a Russian citizen who has each proper to return again dwelling.”
Requested if he was involved about going again to Russia, Navalny countered, “Why would I be fearful of Russia? What dangerous issues can occur to me in Russia?”
Navalny introduced his choice to return to Moscow on Wednesday, signaling his intention to proceed his political battle in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In an internet video message, he mentioned it had by no means crossed his thoughts to not return to Russia.
“It is because I didn’t depart. I ended up in Germany — in an intensive care field — for one easy cause: they tried to kill me,” he mentioned.
A thorn in the Kremlin’s side for greater than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level corruption and mobilizing crowds of younger protesters, he fell in poor health on a flight to Moscow from Tomsk, a metropolis in Siberia, on Aug. 20.
The airplane was compelled to make an emergency touchdown within the city of Omsk, which can also be in Siberia. There, he was taken to hospital for remedy and positioned right into a medically induced coma.
Supporters of the anti-corruption campaigner, who was barred from difficult Putin for the Russian presidency in 2018, instantly mentioned they believed he was poisoned.
However Russian docs mentioned their preliminary investigation didn’t point out that was the case and as a substitute instructed that he could have suffered a metabolic problem.
After a medical workforce flew in from Germany, the politician’s household insisted that he be transferred to Berlin for remedy.
Germany later concluded that the politician was poisoned with Novichok, the Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent, and Navalny’s associates accused President Putin of being behind it.
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Nevertheless, the Kremlin has denied all involvement, insisting there is no such thing as a proof that Navalny was poisoned and refusing to start out a prison investigation into the incident. Moscow has additionally insisted that Navalny was free to return dwelling like several Russian citizen.
His supporters worry the politician may very well be jailed as a result of his poisoning has elevated his standing because the Russian authorities’s strongest foe each contained in the nation and internationally.
On the finish of December, the Federal Penitentiary Service warned Navalny that he confronted time in jail if he fails to right away report back to its workplace according to the phrases of a suspended sentence and probation he obtained for a 2014 conviction, which the politician has rejected as politically motivated. The European Court docket for Human Rights has dominated that his conviction was illegal.
It mentioned Thursday that Navalny was on a needed record, with an order out to arrest him.
The Related Press contributed to this report.