Moscow (dpa) – Five months after his poisoning, Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny wants to return to Russia this Sunday – where he is threatened with direct arrest.
The plane of the Russian company Pobeda with the 44-year-old on board is scheduled to take off from BER Airport in Berlin in the afternoon and land at Vnukowo Airport at 5:20 PM CET (7:20 PM local time). Moscow. The opposition leader had called on his supporters to meet him there. The Moscow prosecutor’s office warned of unauthorized meetings on the airport grounds and imminent consequences.
Navalny had recovered from an attack with the neurotoxin Novitschok in Germany since the summer. The opposition leader blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin and the FSB for the attack in August. And he hopes that an investigation into the crime will be launched after his return to Russia.
In the meantime, Germany has also responded to several requests for mutual legal assistance from the Russian judiciary. In addition, laboratories of the Bundeswehr and in France, Sweden and at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) showed the illegal war agent Novichok. However, the authorities in Moscow still have doubts about the poisoning. Putin and the FSB had rejected charges of attempted murder against the opposition member.
Russia’s best-known opposition activist should expect to be arrested after landing for allegedly failing to meet probation requirements in previous criminal proceedings. He always pointed out that he was recovering from the attack in Germany and therefore could not personally report this to the authorities in Moscow. The Russian law enforcement agency has expelled him to be wanted and is ready to take him into custody.
Numerous media complained in advance that the airport administration did not want to allow camera teams. Hundreds of people had joined a Facebook group set up especially for Nawalny’s reception, many of whom wanted to go to the airport on Sunday.
Navalny had repeatedly stressed that the political struggle against the “Putin system” could only continue in Russia itself – despite the risk of jail time or death. Kremlin critics have repeatedly been the victims of attacks. In 2015, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was shot near the Kremlin. Navalny faces several criminal proceedings in Russia that have been criticized for their political motivation.
Numerous commentators called Navalny’s decision to return to Russia courageous – and a political victory. “The fact that Navalny is not afraid of the worst possible scenario destroys the whole Kremlin game,” wrote political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya. In the autumn there will be parliamentary elections in Russia, in which the opposition politician wants to break the monopoly of the Kremlin party, United Russia.
Russia’s best-known opposition activist collapsed on a domestic flight to Moscow after the August 20 attack. After an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, he was first treated by Russian doctors and then taken to the Berlin University Clinic Charité on August 22. Kremlin chief Putin had himself approved the rescue flight. After his discharge from the Charité, Navalny remained in Germany for rehabilitation.