Russia warns Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny of immediate arrest on arrival | News | DW | 14.01.2021

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Russia warns Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny of immediate arrest on arrival

Russia's FSIN prison service has said it will be "obliged" to arrest Navalny if he returns, claiming he had breached terms of a suspended sentence.

Alexei Navalny at a Moscow court in 2018

Opposition leader Navalny has long been threatened with legal actions he says are politically motivated

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was warned Thursday by Russia's federal prison service, the FSIN, that he faces immediate arrest if he returns to his home country on Sunday as planned

Navalny, one of President Vladimir Putin's main rivals, has been recovering in Germany following his poisoning with a nerve agent in August 2020. The 44-year-old fell ill while aboard a domestic Russian flight from Siberia to Moscow and was later flown to Berlin for treatment. Navalny claims he was poisoned under Putin's orders , which the Kremlin has denied. 

Should Navalny return on Sunday, the FSIN said it would be "obliged to taken all actions to detain" the opposition leader, adding that it had already asked a Moscow court to turn a suspended sentence into jail time. 

Navalny says charges are unlawful

The FSIN claims that Navalny breached probation terms on six occasions by failing to register with authorities last year as part of a 2014 suspended prison sentence. 

Navalny, whose conviction on fraud charges was ruled unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights, insists he could not report in Moscow while an outpatient recovering in Berlin. 

"In theory they can detain him as soon as he arrives [in Russia] but initially only for 48 hours," said Vadim Kobzev, one of Navalny's lawyers. Kobzev added that he expected a court to hear Navalny's case on January 29, when it could order Navalny's imprisonment. 

A diplomatic rift

Last year, laboratories in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he had been exposed to the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent. 

Disputing the diagnosis, Russian authorities have insisted that doctors in Siberia found no traces of Novichok while also refusing to open a full criminal inquiry. 

In December, the investigative website Bellingcat, together with other media outlets, asserted that chemical weapons experts had long followed Navalny, including on the day of his poisoning. 

Late last year, the European Union imposed travel bans and bank account freezes on several Russian officials over the incident, including the head of Russia's FSB intelligence service. 

ipj/dj (Reuters, AFP, dpa)