Navalny Announces Return to Russia Despite Prison Threat

Opposition figure Alexei Navalny will fly back to Russia on Sunday despite the threat of imprisonment upon his return, the Kremlin critic announced on Wednesday.

Navalny, 44, has been recovering in Germany following what western scientists determined to be poisoning by the Novichok nerve agent in August. He vowed to return to Russia after making a full recovery from the poisoning, which he claims was ordered by President Vladimir Putin.

“The question of whether ‘to return or not’ never stood before me. Simply because I didn’t leave. I ended up in Germany, having arrived there in an intensive care box,” Navalny tweeted.

“On Jan. 17, Sunday, I will return home on a Pobeda flight. Come greet me,” he said.

His announcement comes a day after Russia’s Federal Prison Service (FSIN) asked the court to replace his 2014 suspended sentence in the Yves Rocher case with a real prison term, a signal that he could be jailed when he arrives in Russia. His extended probation period in the embezzlement case he says was politically motivated and Europe’s human rights court ruled was unfair expired on Dec. 30.

Late in December, Russian investigators opened a criminal probe on allegations that the anti-corruption campaigner had misused $4.8 million of donations to his nonprofits. The charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

“I survived. And now Putin, who gave the order for my murder, is screeching all around his bunker and telling his servants to do everything so that I do not return. The servants act as usual: They fabricate new criminal cases against me,” Navalny wrote.

The Kremlin continues to deny that Navalny was poisoned, accusing the West of refusing to share evidence.

Navalny Associate Shaveddinov Returns From Forced Arctic Military Service

Ruslan Shaveddinov, an associate of Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny, has returned to Moscow following a year of forced military service in the Arctic, the Mediazona news website reported.

Shaveddinov worked for Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) which leads investigations into corrupt individuals among the Kremlin’s ruling elite. In December 2019, men in uniform broke into Shaveddinov’s apartment in the middle of the night and he was sent to the Novaya Zemlya archipelago to complete a year of military service.

During his time on the isolated Arctic island chain, Shaveddinov alleged that soldiers had had to melt snow in order to get drinking water. In March, he was transferred to a unit with no cellular service.

Video published to social media Wednesday showed Shaveddinov reuniting with his partner, Navalny spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh, and telling journalists he is happy to be back in Moscow.

Two other FBK employees, Ivan Konovalov and Artyom Ionov, have also been sent to forced military service in remote parts of the country.

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