Navalny takes off on plane to Russia despite arrest threat
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny took off on a plane bound for Russia on Sunday, to return home for the first time since he was poisoned last summer, despite Russian authorities’ stated desire to arrest him and potentially jail him for years.
Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent domestic critics, was flown to Berlin in August last year for emergency medical treatment after being poisoned with what German tests showed was a Novichok nerve agent.
“This is the best moment in the last five months,” he told reporters after he boarded the plane in the German capital, bound for Moscow. “I feel great. Finally, I’m returning to my home town.”
He announced his decision to return from Germany on Wednesday, and a day later Moscow’s prison service said it would do everything to arrest him once he returned, accusing him of flouting the terms of a suspended prison sentence for embezzlement, a 2014 case he says was trumped up.
The 44-year-old, who boarded a plane in Berlin at the last minute from a car sitting on the tarmac, hence avoiding other passengers, made light of the risk of being arrested.
He said he didn’t think he would be arrested, calling himself 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,” he added.
He was accompanied by his wife Yulia, and his spokeswoman.