Russia’s prison administration said on Thursday that top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny faces immediate arrest when he returns from Germany.
Navalny, who is about to seize Germany after an August poisoning with a nerve agent he blamed on the Kremlin, said he would fly home on Sunday. He accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of now trying to deter him from coming home with the threat of arrest. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the poisoning of the opposition leader.
In late December, the Federal Penitentiary Service or FSIN Navalny warned that he would be jailed if he did not immediately report to his office in accordance with the terms of a conditional sentence and probation he received for a 201
FSIN said in a statement Thursday that it issued an arrest warrant for Navalny in late December following his failure to report to its office. The prison service, which has asked a Moscow court to make Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence a reality, noted that it is “obliged to take all necessary steps to detain Navalny pending the court’s decision.”
In a parallel move just before the New Year, Russia’s main investigative agency also opened a new criminal case against Navalny on charges of large-scale fraud in connection with his alleged misappropriation of $ 5 million in private donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation and other organizations. Navalny has also denied these allegations as grossly fabricated.
Navalny, the most visible Putin critic who had received several short prison sentences in recent years, fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on August 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a hospital in Berlin two days later.
Labs in Germany, France and Sweden and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.
Russian authorities insisted that doctors treating Navalny in Siberia before he was sent to Germany found no trace of poison and have challenged German officials to provide evidence of his poisoning. They refused to open a full-fledged criminal investigation citing the lack of evidence that Navalny was poisoned.
Last month, Navalny released the recording of a phone call he said he had made to a man he described as an alleged member of a group of Federal Security Service officers, or the FSB, who allegedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it. up.
The FSB dismissed the recording as false.