Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested at Moscow airport

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny arrested at Moscow airport

Alexei Navalny, leader of the Russian opposition, walks with demonstrators during a rally in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday, February 29, 2019. Marking the fifth anniversary of the assassination of politician Boris Nemtsov.

Andrei Rudakov | Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Prisons Department said Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany on Sunday.

The Prisons Department said he was held for multiple parole violations and a suspended prison sentence, and he will be detained until a court makes a decision on his case.

Navalny, President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined enemy, has spent the past five months in Germany recovering from a nerve gas attack he blamed on the Kremlin. Navalny decided to leave Berlin of his own free will and was under no apparent pressure to leave Germany.

The Prisons Department issued this announcement after the flight carrying Navalny landed in the Russian capital, albeit at a different airport than planned. It was a possible attempt to deceive journalists and supporters who wanted to see Navalny’s return.

Last week, the Russian Prisons Service issued an arrest warrant for him, saying he violated the terms of his suspended sentence issued in 2014 for embezzlement. The Prison Service asked a Moscow court to convert Navalny’s suspended sentence of 3 and a half years into a real one.

After boarding a Moscow flight in Berlin on Sunday, Navalny said of the possibility of arrest: “It’s impossible; I’m an innocent man.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any role in poisoning the opposition leader.

Navalny’s supporters and journalists had arrived at Vnukovo Airport in Moscow, where the plane was scheduled to land, but it ended up landing at Sheremetyevo, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. There was no immediate explanation for the diversion.

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The OVD-Info group, which monitors political detentions, said that at least 37 people were arrested at Vnukovo airport, although their affiliations were not immediately clear.

Vnukovo banned journalists from working inside the building, saying in a statement last week that the move was due to epidemic concerns. The airport also blocked access to the international arrivals area.

Police cars to hold prisoners stopped outside the building on Sunday.

The independent Novaya Gazeta newspaper and opposition social media reported on Sunday that many of Navalny’s supporters in Saint Petersburg have been removed from trains bound for Moscow or barred from boarding flights late on Saturday and early Sunday, including his staff coordinator in Russia region. The second largest city.

Navalny fell into a coma while on a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a hospital in Berlin two days later.

Laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, demonstrated exposure to Novichok nerve agent from the Soviet era.

Russian authorities insisted that the doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia before flown him to Germany found no traces of the poison and demanded that German officials provide evidence of his poisoning. They refused to open a full criminal investigation, stating that there was no evidence that Navalny had been poisoned.

Last month, Navalny released a recording of a phone call he said he had with a man he described as an alleged member of a group of Federal Security Service, or FSB, officers who allegedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it. above. The FSB denied registering as fake.

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