Navalny plans to return to Russia after recovery in Germany

BERLIN (AP) — Leading Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny planned to fly home to Russia yesterday after recovering in Germany from his poisoning last August with a nerve agent.

Navalny announced last Wednesday that he would return, despite Russian authorities’ threats to put him behind bars again. He is expected to fly from Berlin to Moscow. Last Thursday, Russia’s prison service said that he faces immediate arrest once he returns.

Navalny, who has blamed 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.

At the end of December, the Federal Penitentiary Service (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 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 3.5-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 August 20. Tests established he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.

File photo shows Alexei Navalny being detained by Russian police officers during a protest in Moscow. PHOTO: AFP