Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane prior to flight to Moscow in the Airport Berlin Brandenburg in Schoenefeld, Germany.(AP)
Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia sit in the plane prior to flight to Moscow in the Airport Berlin Brandenburg in Schoenefeld, Germany.(AP)

Explained: Why Kremlin critic Navalny faces immediate arrest in Russia?

Navalny has been jailed several times over various charges, which the Russian leader has denounced as politically motivated.
Written by Kunal Gaurav
PUBLISHED ON JAN 17, 2021 10:01 PM IST

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny on Sunday left for Moscow for the first time since he was poisoned last year with a Soviet-style nerve agent from the Novichok group. The Russian opposition leader announced his return on Wednesday and a day later, Russia’s prison service said that Navalny faces immediate arrest once he arrives in Moscow.

After boarding the Moscow-bound plane, Navalny said that it was the best moment for him in the last five months as he was finally returning to his home town, according to news agency Reuters. The Russian leader told reporters that he is an innocent person and didn’t think he would be arrested.

"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."

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) issued a warning in December that Navalny faced prison time in case he fails to immediately report to its office. FSIN stated that Navalny, a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was supposed to report to them as per the terms of a suspended sentence and probation period that ended on December 29, 2020.

Navalny has been jailed several times over various charges, including embezzlement and holding unauthorised protests, which the Russian leader has denounced as politically motivated. On Thursday, the FSIN said in a statement that an arrest warrant was issued against Navalny following his failure to report to its office.

The prison service asserted that it was “obliged to take all the necessary action” to detain the Russian leader, adding that it had already asked a Moscow court to turn the suspended sentence into prison time. Meanwhile, a parallel criminal case against the 44-year-old politician has been opened on charges of fraud related to his alleged mishandling of $5 million in private donations.

Read: Ally of poisoned Kremlin critic Navalny jailed in Moscow for extremism

Navalny has been at the forefront of the anti-corruption struggle in Russia and has organised several demonstrations in the past against Putin and his political allies. He had also strongly criticised the sweeping constitutional reforms introduced by Putin that gave him an option to stay in power beyond term limits.

In August, Navalny fell unconscious during a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk and the plane had to make an emergency landing in Omsk. He was brought to Berlin on a special flight sent by German non-governmental organisation Cinema for Peace after Navalny’s team alleged that the Russian government was behind the poisoning, an allegation Kremlin has repeatedly denied. German health authorities, as well as specialist laboratories in France and Sweden, later confirmed that Navalny was poisoned with a nerve agent from the Novichok group.

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