Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Detained After Returning To Russia

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Carlie Porterfield   Forbes U.S. Staff

Alexey Navalny

Photo: Alexey Navalny Twitter

Alexei Navalny, one of Russia’s most outspoken Kremlin critics, was detained at a Moscow airport Sunday after returning to his home country for the first time since he nearly died after being poisoned by a Soviet-era nerve agent last year.

KEY FACTS

- Navalny was detained at passport control after he landed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport Sunday evening, and was escorted away by police officers after kissing his wife goodbye.

- Russian authorities said last week they intended to arrest him on charges of violating probation terms connected to a 2014 fraud conviction against him that Navalny maintains is bogus and politically motivated.

- Navalny’s alleged parole violations could send him to prison for up to three and a half years, and a separate fraud investigation could land him another 10 year sentence, according to the Guardian.

- Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, where his flight was scheduled to arrive and where hundreds of Navalny’s supporters had gathered to greet him, was reportedly shut down because of technical issues (an excuse some experts expessed skepticism about) and forced Navalny to land at another airport in the city.

- His return to the country was an act of defiance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Navalny says ordered Russia’s spy agency to assassinate him, which the Kremlin has denied.

- According to the BBC, Putin joked at a press conference last month that if Russian security forces had been ordered to kill Navalny, they would have finished the job.

CRUCIAL QUOTE

"Everyone is asking me if I'm scared. I am not afraid," Navalny told reporters at the Moscow airport shortly before being detained, according to CNN. "I feel completely fine walking towards the border control. I know that I will leave and go home because I'm right and all the criminal cases against me are fabricated."

KEY BACKGROUND

Navalny was first airlifted to Berlin for treatment after being poisoned in August while traveling in Russia. Tests in Germany showed Navalny had been poisoned with a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union that was also used in the poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K. in 2018. The Kremlin has denied involvement in both cases. Navalny has been arrested and imprisoned in Russia multiple times throughout the years for criticizing Putin’s government. Despite pressure from the West, Russia has not opened an investigation into the poisoning, claiming there is no evidence a crime was committed. Last month, the U.S. State Department said they believed the Russian Federal Security Service poisoned Navalny. “There is no plausible explanation for Mr. Navalny's poisoning other than Russian government involvement and responsibility," a department spokesperson said in a statement, according to CNN. "Of course, President Putin and the Russian government would have us believe otherwise." Navalny’s claims the Kremlin was behind his attack were also backed up by investigative online website Bellingcat. A joint investigation with The InsiderDer Spiegel and CNN uncovered evidence that Navalny had been stalked by government agents specializing in poisonous substances for nearly three years before he was poisoned in 2020.

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Carlie Porterfield   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a Texas native covering breaking news out of New York City. Previously, I was a Forbes intern in London. I am an alum of City, University of London and Texas State University.