Alexei Navalny has carved out a life of activism in Russia between his previous court appearances, house arrest and periods in detention before
The Putin critic and opposition leader in Russia who had been poisoned, Alexei Navalny, has been detained by Russian police following his return to his home country.
The dissident opposition lead flew back from Germany where he had been recovering after being exposed to a Soviet-era novichok nerve agent back in August.
Alina Droyshevskaia, a producer for Sky News, was on the Sunday flight with Navalny and said that as passengers left the aircraft: “All of us expect he is going to be arrested… He’s ready to sacrifice himself and basically be arrested. His wife is around him right now.”
In the minutes following the plane’s arrival into the country, Russia’s prison service confirmed that Mr Navalny has been detained by police officers.
Mr Navalny’s flight had originally been scheduled to land at Vnukovo airport in Moscow but it was later diverted to land at the city’s Sheremetyevo airport, which has been seen as a possible an effort to keep the opposition leader from the hundreds of his supporters at Vnukovo who had shown up to see him.
Police had detained several people at Vnukovo airport and cleared a crowd out of the terminal. Supporters were heard chanting “Russia will be free!” and “Navalny! Navalny!”.
This comes after the Russian opposition leader had been discharged from the hospital after being treated for poisoning by a novichok agent, laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden have all confirmed that he had been poisoned with the same form of nerve agent that was used to target Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in the UK in 2018.
Earlier, after boarding the aircraft in the German capital city of Berlin on Sunday, the Russian dissident had told the press: “This is the best moment in the last five months. I feel great. Finally, I’m returning to my home town.”
He said that he did not think he would be arrested, saying that he was an innocent person.
“What do I need to be afraid of? What bad thing can happen to me in Russia?” he added. “I feel like a citizen of Russia who has every right to return.”
The 44-year-old had said on Instagram: “It was never a question of whether to return or not. Simply because I never left.”
“I ended up in Germany after arriving in an intensive care box for one reason: They tried to kill me.”
Mr Navalny fell ill last summer on a flight to Moscow from the Siberian city of Tomsk, but Russia has denied any involvement in the poisoning and has said that it has seen no evidence of Navalny being poisoned.
The Russian opposition leader is on the nation’s Federal Wanted List and is implicated in a number of criminal, as well as some administrative cases, which gives the country’s law enforcement broad scope to keep him under further investigation.
This would most likely mean that he will not be around for Russia’s parliamentary elections in September.
This comes after the German government has said that toxicological exams at Berlin’s Charité hospital have yielded “unequivocal proof” that Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was poisoned with a novichok nerve agent.
Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service has submitted a request to revoke a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence which wrapped up in December and jail him instead.
They say that he “systematically and repeatedly violated” the terms of his probation for this sentence both whilst he was in Germany and on a number of occasions previously.
If the court agrees to this request, Alexei Navalny could serve three-and-a-half-years in jail, minus the few months that he already spent under house arrest.
Mr Navalny has said: “[President Vladimir Putin’s] servants are acting as usual by fabricating new criminal cases against me.”
“But I’m not interested in what they’re going to do to me. Russia is my country, Moscow is my city and I miss it.”