Navalny arrested upon landing in Moscow

Moscow, Jan 17 (efe-epa).- Russian opposition leader and Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was arrested Sunday evening by police in the passport control section of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, according to direct digital media transmissions.

Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, confirmed his arrest on Twitter.

Several police officers asked the opposition leader to accompany them after which Navalny asked to have his attorney come with them, a request that the officers denied.

Navalny bade farewell with a kiss to his wife Yulia, who had returned to Moscow with him from Germany, where he had been recovering under specialist treatment for almost five months in Berlin after being poisoned in Russia.

Navalny has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being directly involved in the Novichok nerve agent poisoning that almost took his life while campaigning in Siberia in August.

“I can tell you that I’m completely happy to have returned (to Russia) and that it’s my best day in the last five months,” Navalny told reporters at the airport shortly before being arrested.

He also once again thanked Germany and, in particular, the doctors and nurses who treated him during his recovery.

“This is my home. Everyone asks me if I’m afraid. I’m not afraid. I’m going to passport control completely calm,” he said.

Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (SFP), which had issued a search and capture order for the opposition politician, confirmed his arrest.

The SFP accuses Navalny of failing to comply with a suspended 3.5-year jail sentence handed down against him in 2014 and asked the justice system to order that he be returned to prison.

Navalny, the SFP emphasized in a statement, “will be arrested until justice is carried out.”

The charge against Navalny in that case was described as “arbitrary” by the European Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International on Sunday demanded “prisoner of conscience” Navalny’s “immediate and unconditional” release saying that he had been deprived of his freedom for his peaceful political activism and for exercising his freedom of expression.

AI’s Moscow office director, Natalia Zviagina, said that the activist’s arrest was additional proof that Russian authorities “are seeking to silence him.”

The three Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all of which spent decades under Russian domination before regaining their freedom in the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union – on Sunday asked the European Union to take “restrictive measures” against Russia after Navalny’s arrest, calling his detention “completely unacceptable” and demanding his “immediate release.”

And Jake Sullivan, US President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for national security advisor, on Sunday demanded Navalny’s immediate release, tweeting “Mr. Navalny should be immediately released, and the perpetrators of the outrageous attack on his life must be held accountable.”

“The Kremlin’s attacks on Mr. Navalny are not just a violation of human rights, but an affront to the Russian people who want their voices heard,” Sullivan added.

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