Russia Detains Putin Critic Alexei Navalny On Return To Moscow

Alexei Navalny
Evgeny Feldman / Novaya Gazeta, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Russia detained prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny at Moscow airport on his return from Germany on Sunday, as stated by the prison services. 

The 44-year-old Russian activist has long been one of the most prominent faces of Russian opposition to President Vladimir Putin. He says Mr. Putin’s United Russia Party is full of “crooks and thieves” and accuses the president of sucking the blood out of Russia, being a feudal state and concentrating all the power in the Kremlin. Navalny has led nationwide protests against the authorities, and has aimed to fulfil his biggest dream - a chance to challenge Putin for the position of the President of Russia. However, in 2018 he was barred from running as a candidate in the presidential election because of his conviction by a Russian court of embezzlement. 

In August 2020, Navalny was nearly killed in a poisoning attack which he believes were carried out by the Kremlins. He collapsed on a flight over Serbia and was rushed to a hospital in Omsk. he went into a coma when finally the Russian officials gave permission to a German-based charity to airlift him to Berlin for treatment, where he has been for the last five months. 

As Navalny flew back to his home country, Russia, from Berlin’s BER airport at 1417 GMT, which was scheduled to land in Moscow at around 1620 GMT; the flight was diverted to another airport within a few hours of take-off. This last minute diversion was an apparent effort to thwart journalists and the thousands of supporters waiting to greet him. 

The flight captain announced that they wouldn't be landing as planned. There were "technical difficulties'', he said, before adding, audibly amused: "Instead we will calmly make our way to Sheremetyevo airport ... where the weather is great!

"Are you detaining me?" Navalny asked. "You're detaining me," he said, repeatedly. In that case, he said, he would like his lawyer to join him. He then embraced his wife and turned to head away with the police. 

After taking a few minutes to gather her thoughts, Yulia Navalnaya, Alexei’s wife addressed the crowd: "Alexei said today that he is not afraid. I am not afraid either. And I call upon you all not to be afraid."