Alexei Navalny and his wife Yulia are seen at the passport control point at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport. AFP
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was detained by Russian police at passport control late on Sunday after flying back to Russia from Germany for the first time since being poisoned last summer, a Reuters witness said.
Russia's FSIN prison authority confirmed that officers had detained the prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, the Interfax news agency reported.
The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case.
Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, had spent the previous five months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent attack that he blamed on the Kremlin. Navalny decided to leave Berlin of his own free will and wasn’t under any apparent pressure to leave from Germany.
The prison service made the announcement after the flight carrying Navalny landed in the Russian capital, though at a different airport than had been scheduled. It was a possible attempt to outwit journalists and supporters who wanted to witness Navalny's return.
Russia’s prison service last week issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had violated the terms of suspended sentence he received on a 2014 conviction for embezzlement. The prison service has asked a Moscow court to turn Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into a real one.
After boarding the Moscow flight in Berlin on Sunday, Navalny said of the prospect of arrest: "It’s impossible; I’m an innocent man.”
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the opposition leader’s poisoning.
Navalny supporters and journalists had come to Moscow's Vnukovo Airport, where the plane was scheduled to land, but it ended up touching down at Sheremetyevo airport, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. There was no immediate explanation for the flight diversion.
As Europe gets ready for its biggest nation in the west of Europe to say goodbye under a nationalist leadership, and a parliament unable to control the executive at the other end of Europe, the parliament of Ukraine has just been elected with serious hopes for the first time since the Berlin Wall fell that
The announcement came as the European Union’s top diplomat told Russia’s foreign minister that the treatment of Navalny represents "a low point” in the relations between Brussels and Moscow.
For a decade, Russian President Vladimir Putin has avoided putting his gadfly opponent Alexey Navalny behind bars for any considerable length of time — until Tuesday, when a Moscow court ordered Navalny to spend the next two-and-a-half years in prison.
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