Persecution threatens in Russia – Navalny is on his way to Moscow

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After recovering from a poison attack in Berlin, Kremlin critic Navalny is on his way back to Moscow. In Russia he is threatened with legal trouble. Nevertheless, a return was never an option for Navalny. Five months after being poisoned, the Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has started his journey home from Germany to Russia. „I am happy. I hope that we will all arrive together,“ said Navalny on the plane, as the Internet channel Doschd showed. The plane operated by the Russian company Pobeda took off from BER Airport in Berlin in the afternoon – with a delay of more than half an hour. The plane with flight number DP 936 was supposed to land at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport at 5:20 p.m. CET (7:20 p.m. local time).

Alexej Nawalny
Foto: dpa
Opposition politician threatens imprisonment Navalny challenges Putin to return to Russia

Navalny had recovered in Germany from an attack with the neurotoxin Novitschok, which was banned as a chemical weapon. The attack took place on August 20 in the Siberian city of Tomsk. Navalny had repeatedly blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin and the domestic secret service FSB for the murder. The Kremlin chief had always rejected this. Regardless of the risk of being killed or arrested, Navalny declared several times that his place was in Russia and that he wanted to continue his fight against the „Putin system“ there. The 44-year-old was accompanied by his wife Julia Navalnaja and his employees, among others. They were brought to the plane under police protection. Numerous journalists sat in the machine. At the airport in Berlin Navalny had numerous supporters „Udatschi!“ desired – in German: „Success!“ Hundreds of the anti-terror police OMON took up positions at the airport in Moscow. There were several prisoner transporters in front of the building, as a reporter from the German press agency reported. The opposition leader had called on his supporters to meet him at the airport. The Moscow public prosecutor’s office warned against unauthorized rallies on the airport premises and threatened consequences.

The Russian judiciary has put Navalny out to be wanted, which is why the opponent of Kremlin chief Putin can expect his arrest. He is said to have violated probation requirements in previous criminal proceedings. He said on the plane, where he took a window seat in row 13, that he was not afraid of anything. „What’s bad should happen to me in Russia?“ He said. Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer who has defended Navalny in the past, said that arresting would violate international law. „I hope they don’t arrest their own reputation,“ said the lawyer about the behavior of the power apparatus on the Doschd channel.

Navalny wants to break Putin’s monopoly on power

In Russia there were reports of arrests hours before Navalny’s departure. In St. Petersburg, the head of Navalny’s staff there, Irina Fatyanova, announced that she and two other activists had been taken off a train to Moscow and had been detained by the police for three hours for no reason. Other activists said they were detained at Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg or stopped in vehicles on the street. Many journalists complained that the airport management in Vnukowo banned access to the airport because of the corona pandemic and did not issue a work permit. There were wide barriers in the international part of the airport. Numerous activists, bloggers and journalists accompanied Navalny on the flight and reported live again and again.

Navalny supporter Maxim Predetschensky told Doschd that he bought a ticket because he supported Navalny in his fight for freedom in Russia. The flight could be a „historic event“. He admired Navalny’s courage. „He works to ensure that the Russians‘ right to freedom of expression is protected.“ Navalny had repeatedly stressed that the political struggle against the „Putin system“ could only be continued in Russia itself – despite the risk of jail or death.

Kremlin critics are repeatedly victims of attacks. In 2015, the former Vice Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was shot near the Kremlin. Navalny is threatened with several criminal proceedings in Russia that have been criticized for being politically motivated. Numerous commentators described Navalny’s decision to return to Russia as brave – and a political victory. „The fact that Navalny is not afraid of the worst possible scenario destroys the whole game of the Kremlin,“ wrote the political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya. In autumn there will be parliamentary elections in Russia, in which the opposition politician wants to break the monopoly of the Kremlin party, United Russia.

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