Alexei Navalny (44), a Putin critic who returned to Moscow from Germany months after a nerve agent attack nearly killing him, was immediately arrested. President Vladimir Putin’s government denies poisoning Mr. Navalny. The US and EU including France, Italy, and the President of the European Council Charles Michel, led calls for Mr. Navalny to be freed.
Mr. Navalny who was poisoned last August and collapsed on an internal flight in Siberia was then flown to Germany for emergency medical treatment. As he recovered he said he intended to return to Russia. Onboarding a Pobeda Airlines flight in Berlin despite warnings he would face arrest landing.
“I know that I am right. I fear nothing, “ Mr. Navalny said upon landing just minutes before he was detained. He also asked border guards, “ Have you been waiting for me long?”
The activist was later taken to a police station in Moscow, where he spent the night.
In a statement late on Sunday, Russia’s prison service said the opposition leader “ had been wanted since 29 December 2020 for repeated violations of the probation board” and added that he would remain in custody until a court decision. The authorities accused him of violating conditions imposed after a conviction of embezzlement, for which he received a suspended sentence. He has always said the case was politically motivated. Russian prosecutors have launched a new criminal case against Mr. Navalny on fraud charges related to transfers of money to various charities, including his Anti-corruption Foundation.