Alexei Navalny has announced he will return to Russia on Sunday, five months after he was poisoned with Novichok in a failed assassination.
The Russian opposition leader and fierce Kremlin critic was airlifted to Germany for treatment in August after collapsing on a plane.
Navalny yesterday said Russia’s prison authority asked a court to jail him for having allegedly broken the terms of a suspended sentence he has been serving.
And today he confirmed he would return to his home country despite the legal threats hanging over him, claiming Putin ‘has told his servants to do everything they can’ to stop him.
Alexei Navalny has announced he will return to Moscow, Russia, on Sunday, five months after he was poisoned with Novichok in a failed assassination and taken to Germany
Speaking on his Instagram account this morning, Navalny said: ‘The question “to return or not” never stood before me. Just because I didn’t leave.
‘I ended up in Germany, having arrived in it in an intensive care box, for one reason: they tried to kill me.
‘I survived. And now Putin, who gave the order for my murder, screeches all over his bunker and tells his servants to do everything so that I do not return.
‘The servants act as usual: they fabricate new criminal cases against me.
‘But what they do there is not very interesting to me. Russia is my country, Moscow is my city, I miss them.
Airlift: Navalny arrives in Berlin two days after his poisoning on August 20, by which time his heart had slowed to 33 beats per minute and his body temperature was down to 33.5C (92.3F)
‘Therefore, this morning I went to Pobeda company website and bought tickets. On January 17, Sunday, I will return home on a Pobeda flight.’
Navalny fell ill on a plane in Siberia on August 20 and was airlifted two Germany two days later, where a military lab found evidence of the Soviet-era nerve agent.
The Kremlin has rejected calls to open a full investigation into the poisoning, and denied Navalny’s claims that the FSB security agency was behind the plot.
Navalny Tweeted yesterday: ‘Putin is so mad at me for surviving his poisoning that he ordered the Federal Penitentiary Service to replace my suspended sentence with a real one.’
Last month, Russia’s prison service ordered him to fly back from Germany and report at a Moscow office or be jailed if he failed to return before a deadline.
Navalny with his wife and children after waking from his coma at the Berlin hospital where doctors say his previous good health contributed to his recovery
The country’s federal prison service accused him of violating the terms of a suspended sentence dating from 2014.
It came just a day before the end of a probation period for the three-and-a-half-year prison term over a theft case which Navalny says was politically motivated.
‘The convicted man is not fulfilling all of the obligations placed on him by the court, and is evading the supervision of the Criminal Inspectorate,’ a statement said.
The prison service stated no deadline, but Navalny posted a screenshot of a message to his lawyer which said he had until 9am on December 29 to show up at a Moscow office.
His spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said it was impossible for Navalny to return in time and accused the prison service of acting on orders from the Kremlin.
Last month, Russia’s prison service ordered Navalny to fly back from Germany and report at a Moscow office or be jailed if he failed to return before a deadline
Navalny’s allies have pointed the finger at Russian president Vladimir Putin (pictured) after the opposition leader fell ill, but the Kremlin has dismissed the claims
She said at the time: ‘There’s no way he could appear at the Moscow Criminal Inspectorate tomorrow.
‘But does the [prison service] really care about common sense? They were given an order, they are fulfilling it.’
Navalny has been a thorn in the Kremlin’s side for more than a decade, exposing what he says is high-level corruption and mobilising protests.
He has been repeatedly detained for organising public meetings, sued over corruption investigations and was barred from running against Putin in the 2018 presidential election.
The 44-year-old has also served several stints in jail in recent years for organising anti-Kremlin protests.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s arrests and detention of Navalny in 2012 and 2014 were politically motivated.