The leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny plans to fly from Berlin to Moscow on Sunday. Russia’s prison service said that he faces immediate arrest once he returns.
Navalny, who has recovered from his poisoning in August with a nerve agent (blaming his poisoning on the Kremlin), charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin was now trying to deter him from coming home with new legal motions. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the opposition leader’s poisoning.
“They are doing everything to scare me. But what they are doing there is not of much interest to me. Russia is my country, Moscow is my city, I miss them,” said Navalny.
At the end of December, the Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, warned Navalny that he faced time in prison if he fails to immediately report to its office in line with the terms of a suspended sentence and probation he received for a 2014 conviction on charges of embezzlement and money laundering that he rejected as politically motivated. The European Court for Human Rights had ruled that his conviction was unlawful.
The FSIN said Thursday it issued an arrest warrant for Navalny after he failed to report to its office. The prison service, which has asked a Moscow court to turn Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into a real one, said it’s “obliged to take all the necessary action to detain Navalny pending the court’s ruling.”
Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on Aug. 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a Berlin hospital two days later.
Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.
Putin has described extensive media investigation into the poisoning as a fabrication by Western intelligence, and said in December that if Russian security services had wanted to kill Navalny, they “would have finished” the job.