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Russian opposition leader arrested upon landing in Moscow, five months after his poisoning | The State

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested by police after landing at a Moscow airport, five months after being poisoned by a nerve agent that nearly cost him his life.

Navalny, 44, was seen being taken away by police at passport control.

The activist says Russian authorities were behind the attempt on his life, by poisoning him with Novichok, a charge backed by investigative journalists but denied by the Kremlin.

“I know I am right. I’m not afraid of anything”Navalny told his supporters and the media at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, minutes before his arrest.

Navalny at the time of his arrest.
Navalny was detained at the migration post at the Moscow airport. Reuters

Navalny announced last week that he was preparing to return to his country to continue his fight against Vladimir Putin.

His flight from Berlin, Germany’s capital, was scheduled to land at Vnukovo airport, but was diverted to Sheremetyevo, after supporters of the leader gathered to welcome him.

Local authorities erected metal barriers inside Vnukovo airport, and Russian media reports that several activists, including Lyubov Sobol, a key Navalny ally, They were too detained.

Navalny supporting activists arrested.
Several activists who support Navalny were also arrested. Reuters

Why was he arrested?

Russian authorities had warned that Navalny could face prison after missing a December deadline given by the Russian prison service to report to an office in Moscow.

The prison system accuses him of violating the conditions imposed on him after a conviction for embezzlement, for which he received a suspended sentence.

He has always said that his sentence is due to political reasons.

In addition, Russia’s investigative committee launched a new criminal case against him on charges of fraud related to money transfers to various NGOs, including his own organization, the Anti-Corruption Foundation.

Navalny has claimed that Putin is doing everything possible to prevent his return and has fabricated new cases against him.

Media from around the world gathered at the Berlin airport to record the activist’s departure, but Russian television channels and federal news agencies chose not to cover his return.

Poisoned “without a doubt”

On August 20 of last year, the leader started to feel bad during a flight that would take him from Tomsk, in Siberia, to Moscow, but he survived because the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk, where he was rushed to an intensive care unit.

Subsequently, after a series of high-level negotiations with the Russian authorities, Navalny was flown to Berlin and underwent treatment while in a medically induced coma.

Germany says French and Swedish laboratories agreed with their country’s scientists that Navalny was “without a doubt” poisoned with a nerve agent, Novichok.

Navalny and his wife on the plane back to Moscow.
Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent. Reuters

Developed by Soviet scientists during the Cold War, Novichok-type agents are extremely toxic: a tiny amount is enough to kill someone.

Analysis by Steve Rosenberg, BBC Moscow correspondent

Russian authorities often claim that Alexei Navalny is not popular with the Russian people, that he is not a threat to President Putin.

But his return home five months after being poisoned sparked a major police operation on Sunday.

In chaotic scenes, riot police pushed Navalny supporters out of the arrivals hall at Vnukovo airport, before the flight was diverted.

In the middle of last year, Russia’s most prominent opposition figure was attacked in Siberia allegedly by an undercover squad of Russian security agents.

His decision to return to Moscow is a direct challenge to Vladimir Putin and creates a dilemma for the Kremlin.

It runs the risk of turning him into a political martyr, a figure similar to Nelson Mandela, and provoking more Western sanctions.

And if it does nothing, the fiercest critic of the Russian government will almost certainly be a thorn in the Kremlin in a major election year.

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