Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny landed and arrested in Moscow on Sunday afternoon, the news agency reports Reuters based on his lawyer. He returned to his home country after recovering from poisoning with the nerve poison novichok in recent months in Germany.
The plane of the 44-year-old Kremlin critic made a last-minute landing to another airport. Instead of the Moscow Vnukovo Airport, where many followers were waiting for Navalny, the opposition leader arrived at another airport in the city: Sheremetyevo Airport. The plane landed there around 8.15 pm (6.15 pm Dutch time).
Russian authorities had raised a large police force at Vnukovo Airport. Images on social media show how roads to and from the airport were checked. Several of Navalny’s allies have been arrested, writes Reuters.
Navalny already expected to be arrested. Authorities say he failed to comply with a suspended prison sentence imposed for embezzlement. He is now in danger of being put in jail for years, according to his lawyer. In 2014 he was awarded 3.5 years for misappropriating money from companies.
There was a grim atmosphere at Moscow airport.
Navalny was poisoned during a trip to Siberia in August last year. He was taken to a hospital in Germany to recover.
Navalny and his supporters hold Russian President Vladimir Putin responsible for the attempt on his life. Moscow has always denied this, even after extensive research by the journalists collective Bellingcat and a video from Navalny in which a former member of the FSB security service admits to having been ordered to kill him.
Navalny neglected to report due to recovery in Germany
The Russian prison service FSIN confirmed last week that Navalny is on the investigation list because he did not report regularly to the authorities. However, he was unable to do this because he was recovering in Germany. Navalny insists his conviction is unjust and politically motivated.
A new criminal case was added at the end of last year. A government investigative committee says he embezzled millions of euros and used the money for personal purposes such as holidays abroad.
According to Navaly, the threat of imprisonment by the Russian authorities hoped to dissuade him from returning. He is a thorn in the side of Putin and other high-ranking Russians. Through his channels he often targets influential people in and around the Kremlin.