Kremlin critic Navalny says he will return to Russia on Sunday

Mr Alexei Navalny, who has been recovering in Berlin from a poisoning attack, faces jail when he returns.
Mr Alexei Navalny, who has been recovering in Berlin from a poisoning attack, faces jail when he returns.

MOSCOW • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny said yesterday he plans to return to Russia on Sunday from Germany, where he has been recovering from a poisoning attack, despite facing a threat of jail when he returns.

The 44-year-old Kremlin critic wrote on Instagram that he had booked a flight that will arrive in Moscow on Sunday.

"There was never any question of 'returning or not' for me. Simply because I didn't leave. I ended up in Germany... for one reason: They tried to kill me," the anti-graft campaigner wrote.

Mr Navalny has been in Germany since late August last year after he fell violently ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow and was hospitalised in the city of Omsk. He was then flown out to Berlin in an induced coma.

Western experts concluded that he was poisoned with the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok, the same chemical said to be used in the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal in the English town of Salisbury in 2018.

Mr Navalny insists that the attack was carried out by Russia's main security agency, the Federal Security Service, on the orders of President Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin denies any involvement in the poisoning, but the European Union has imposed entry bans and bank account freezes on several officials.

Russia, in turn, introduced tit-for-tat sanctions on EU officials, further raising tensions between Moscow and its Western neighbours.

At his annual press conference last month, Mr Putin said if Russia's special services had wanted to poison Mr Navalny, "they would have taken it to the end".

Mr Navalny and his allies have accused the Kremlin of trying to block his return by threatening him with jail. On Monday, papers were filed with a Moscow court asking for his 2014 suspended sentence to be converted into jail time.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'Kremlin critic Navalny says he will return to Russia on Sunday'. Print Edition | Subscribe