Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny faces immediate arrest upon return to Russia, officials say
Russia’s prison service said Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny faces immediate arrest once he returns from Germany.
- Mr Navalny is the most visible Putin critic and has received numerous brief jail terms
- He was under probation for a 2014 conviction on charges of embezzlement and money laundering
- The European Court for Human Rights ruled out his conviction as unlawful
Mr Navalny, a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, recently announced plans to fly back to Russia for the first time since he was poisoned in August, despite the risk of being jailed on his return from Germany.
He accused Mr Putin of now trying to deter him from coming home with the threat of arrest.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in his poisoning.
At the end of December, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, warned Mr 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.
Mr Navalny was under probation 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 in a statement Thursday (local time) that it issued an arrest warrant for Mr Navalny in late December after his failure to report to its office.
The prison service, which has asked a Moscow court to turn Mr Navalny’s 3.5-year suspended sentence into a real sentence, noted that it’s “obliged to take all the necessary action to detain Mr Navalny pending the court’s ruling”.
Mr Navalny, the most visible Putin critic who had received numerous brief jail terms over the past years, fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20.
He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a Berlin hospital two days later.
Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.