Russian opponent Alexei Navalni returned to Russia on Sunday, 150 days after being poisoned in Siberia and taken to Germany for treatment.
Navalni arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport, one of Moscow’s top three, at 8.15 p.m. (2.15 p.m. in Brasilia). His plane from Berlin would land at Vnukovo, another airport in the capital 55 km away, but was hijacked 15 minutes before arrival.
There was no explanation for this, although it seemed obvious. Pobeda, who operated the flight, said there were technical issues with three of his flights – an excuse.
Navalni got off the plane and spoke, according to Russian websites, with people in the immigration queue. He complained about the deviation, “which put people at risk”, and said he was “absolutely happy”. When he arrived at the booth, he was arrested while presenting his documents.
According to Russian media, groups of agents from the Russian Federal Prison Service were waiting for Navalni at both airports.
In December, the service said it would be “forced” to detain Navalni because his prolonged departure from the country violated the terms of a suspended fraud conviction in 2014. The opponent, who was released in September, claims that the process is persecutory.
He will be detained until he is brought to a hearing. In addition, the Russian court opened criminal proceedings against Navalni, accusing his Anti-Corruption Fund of receiving illegal donations and embezzling up to R $ 25 million in favor of the activist.
The opaque finances of the organization have always been in the eye of researchers, although the disposition against the adversary is clear.
For those who expected a return to the style of Vladimir Lenin’s arrival from exile in 1917 at Petrograd station in Finland, however, the event was disappointing.
The Vnukovo terminal was under heavy police protection due to the presence of Navalni supporters, who were prevented from entering the building. They faced 20 less cold at the airport, which is 30 km southwest of the capital.
In Sheremetievo, no one was waiting for Navalni except the officers.
There were arrests of activists because the concentration was prohibited by law, according to legal abuse monitoring site OVD-Info, but without major confrontations. There were dozens of Navalni supporters, who responded to his call to be received.
The activist, who is a lawyer and blogger, directly accuses President Vladimir Putin of the assassination attempt, which the Russian leader denies.
In April 1917, taken under the protection of Imperial Germany, Russia’s enemy in World War I, Lenin landed in present-day St. Petersburg and began to operate the October Bolshevik coup d’etat of the same year, which led to the founding of the Soviet Union. in 1922.
The exaggerated analogy with Navalni, which delighted Russian opponents, had a democratic ink: the return of the opponent aims to create a political moment in favor of candidates opposed to the Putin government in the parliamentary elections in September.
The opponent, who has never had considerable support according to independent polls, gained notoriety from 2017, when he mobilized tens of thousands against the Kremlin with heavy use of the internet.
Little by little, he designed an electoral strategy, between one prison and another. He is counting on the relative success of last year’s local elections to try to galvanize anti-Kremlin sentiment for all candidates who are not from the regime’s supporting party, United Russia.
It was while working for one of these local candidates, in the Siberian city of Tomsk, that Navalni was poisoned. After a legal skirmish, his allies and the bride took him to Berlin for treatment.
He almost died, and doctors reported that he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok (novice, in Russian), developed by the Soviets and known as a weapon of the old KGB (predecessor of the current FSB and of ‘other agencies).
In December, a report by the American network CNN indicated that Navalni was followed by agents of the FSB, the main Russian secret service. Putin jubilated: he said that if Russia had wanted to kill him, it would have done so.
Then Navalni also played a prank on the FSB, calling one of the agents who would be in charge of monitoring him as if he was a superior. It turned out that he had planted the poison in his underwear at the hotel in Tomsk, which the Secret Service denied.
Russia refused to investigate the poisoning, saying Navalni had left the country and had not cooperated, despite being shipped to Germany in a coma.
The affair deteriorated Putin’s good relations with Angela Merkel, generated threats to cancel energy deals, but gradually the temperature dropped. The Germans need Russian gas and are investing in a megaproject in the North Sea to double their supply capacity.
The episode echoes another famous case, in which former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in the UK in 2018. An intense diplomatic conflict between London and Moscow has opened a rift between the countries .
Navalni’s future could also influence the start of the relationship between Putin and Joe Biden, the new US president who takes office on Wednesday (20). They have a long list to try to match the dynamic between the two greatest nuclear powers in the world.