Moscow, Jan 17 (efe-epa).- Russian police on Sunday detained several high-profile supporters of Alexei Navalny who were planning to greet the opposition leader when he makes his return to the country from Berlin later this evening.
Kremlin-critic Navalny has accused President Vladimir Putin of being directly involved in the Novichok nerve agent poisoning that almost took his life while campaigning in Siberia in August. He has spent the last five months recovering from specialist treatment in Berlin.
Irina Fatyanova, who coordinates Navalny’s organization in St. Petersburg, and an activist colleague were prevented from boarding a train to Moscow and detained for several hours, the Echo of Moscow radio and news channel reported.
Fatyanova later tweeted that she had made it to Moscow via an alternative route.
Thousands of people have taken to social media to express their willingness to travel to Moscow’s Vnukovo international airport, where Navalny is due to touch down aboard Pobeda flight DP936 at 7.20 pm local time (4.20 pm GMT).
Moscow’s prosecutor’s office warned of legal action against anyone who participated in an “unauthorized” public act.
But it is not only Navalny’s supporters who are rallying to greet the well-known politician at the airport, Russian nationalist detractors have also called for a counter-protest.
Russian authorities have suggested that Navalny would be arrested upon arrival in the country because of an arrest warrant relating to a 3.5 year suspended prison sentence he received in 2014. That charge was described as “arbitrary” by the European Court of Human Rights.
Local media reports claim over a hundred police agents are to be deployed to Vnukovo on Sunday. EFE-EPA