National & International

Putin critic detained on return to Moscow

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The United States and several European governments have demanded the release of opposition politician Alexei Navalny from Russian detention, according to the BBC.

Mr Navalny, 44, was poisoned last August and collapsed on an internal flight in Siberia, he was flown to Germany for emergency medical treatment.

European experts later said he had been poisoned with the extremely toxic chemical weapon Novichok, developed by Soviet scientists in the Cold War.

As he recovered, he said he intended to return to Russia. On Sunday, he made good on that pledge, boarding a Pobeda Airlines flight in Berlin despite warnings he would face arrest on landing.

He returned to the country five months after he was almost killed in a nerve-agent attack he blamed on the Kremlin. Moscow has denied involvement.

Mr Navalny, was detained soon after his flight from Germany landed in Moscow on Sunday.

Sergei Lavrov said Western politicians were using it as a way to “divert attention” from domestic problems.

Russia’s prison service on Sunday said the Kremlin critic had violated the terms of his suspended sentence for embezzlement.

Mr Navalny’s team said a court hearing was organised on Monday at a police station on the outskirts of Moscow. In a video released by his spokeswoman, Mr Navalny described the hearing as “lawlessness of the highest grade”.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Russian authorities were trying to silence their critics. He called for Mr Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional release”.

“Confident political leaders do not fear competing voices, nor commit violence against or wrongfully detain political opponents,” Mr Pompeo said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Mr Navalny’s arrest was “appalling” and called for his immediate release.

“Rather than persecuting Mr Navalny, Russia should explain how a chemical weapon came to be used on Russian soil,” he said.

In a statement late on Sunday, Russia’s prison service said the opposition leader “had been wanted since 29 December 2020 for repeated violations of the probation period”. It added that he would remain in custody until a court decision.

Image source: Time Magazine

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